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Nuclear Crisis Live: 48 Hours To Avoid “Chernobyl On Steroids”?

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BBC News
Thursday, March 17, 2011

0108: The reason Reactor 3 got the first shower is because of escaping smoke or steam, indicating water evaporating from the cooling pool, Reuters news agency notes.

0052: More helicopters are on their way to dump water on the reactor – NHK television.

0051: A Japanese army helicopter is now dropping water on Reactor 3 – Kyodo.

0048: Japan’s defence ministry gives the go-ahead for spraying water on the reactor from helicopters – Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

2348: It should be noted that the Tokyo Electric Power Company has a poor record on revealing the extent of problems at its nuclear facilities. In 2002, senior executives were forced to resign after the government disclosed that they had covered up a large series of cracks and other damage to reactors. In 2006, the firm admitted it had been falsifying data about coolant materials in its plants.

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2319: The level of radiation detected at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has fallen steadily over the past 12 hours, an official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has said, according to the Reuters news agency. A level of 752 microsieverts per hour was recorded at the plant’s main gate at 1700 on Wednesday (0800 GMT), said Tetsuo Ohmura. The monitoring point was then changed to the plant’s west gate and readings were taken every 30 minutes, he said. At 0500 on Thursday (2000 GMT on Wednesday), the reading was 338 microsieverts per hour. That level is still much higher than it should be, but is not dangerous, Mr Ohmura added.

2255: The IAEA has released information about the temperature of the water in the spent fuel storage pools inside reactors 4, 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi. Spent fuel that has been removed from a nuclear reactor generates intense heat and the water is usually kept below 25C. The IAEA says that the temperature of the pool at reactor 4 was 84C on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday morning, it was 62.7C at reactor 5 and 60C at reactor 6. Current reports say the pools at both reactors 3 and 4 are boiling. Reactor 4’s pool may even be dry.

2027: Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has said it is also concerned about the spent fuel storage pool inside the building housing reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi. The pools at both reactors 3 and 4 are reportedly boiling – there may not even be any water left in reactor 4’s pool – and unless the spent fuel rods are cooled down, they could emit large quantities radiation. Radioactive steam was earlier said to be coming from reactor 3’s pool. If cooling operations did not proceed well, the situation would “reach a critical stage in a couple of days”, an agency official told the Kyodo news agency.

2019: The US military will also fly one of its Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft over the site, possibly later on Thursday, to take photographs of the inside the building which houses reactor 4, Japanese government sources have told the Kyodo news agency. Global Hawks are already being used to survey the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

1900: Mr Jackzo said the high radiation levels would make it very difficult for workers to get near the reactor. “The doses they could experience would potentially be lethal doses in a very short period of time,” he said, but added that the NRC’s information on the situation was “very limited”.

1859: More from NRC chair Gregory Jaczko. He told Congress: “We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

1851: UK Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne has said the advice to British nationals is “not an order” but that given the situation “British nationals should consider leaving Tokyo and northern Japan and that the capacity exists for them to do so”.

1837: Gregory Jaczko, head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said there is no water left in the spent fuel pool in reactor four, adding: “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high.” Mr Jaczko was speaking to Congress in Washington and it was not immediately clear where his information had come from.

1832: The AP news agency is quoting Tepco as saying a new power line is almost ready which could end the crisis. The disruption of power to the pumps which send coolant through the reactors is what led to their overheating.

RELATED: New power line almost ready at Japan nuke plant

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This article was posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

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