Saturday, March 12, 2011

From bad to worse? Japanese official says pumping system caused nuclear plant blast

An explosion at an earthquake-struck nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor's temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday.

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have begun flooding the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor's temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is expected to take two days.

Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers.

The government also expanded the evacuation radius for the Fukushima Daini plant to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The evacuation radius had been 3 kilometers. It was not immediately clear what led to the order. (read more)