Sunday, March 13, 2011

Report: 2nd Japan nuclear meltdown likely under way - World news - Asia-Pacific -

Report: 2nd Japan nuclear meltdown likely under way - World news - Asia-Pacific - "A partial meltdown was likely under way at a second quake-stricken nuclear reactor, Japan's top government spokesman said Sunday as operators frantically tried to halt a similar threat at a nearby reactor.

Fuel rods were briefly exposed and radiation levels briefly rose above the legal limit at the second reactor Sunday, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

A partial meltdown in the unit is 'highly possible,' he told reporters. 'Because it's inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it but we are taking measures on the assumption of the possible partial meltdown.'

His statement came after Japan's largest electric utility started releasing air Sunday at the second nuclear reactor while trying to stop a meltdown that began a day earlier in another.

Both reactors are among three shut down Friday at the Fukushima Daiishi plant when their cooling functions stopped after the area was jolted by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake.

Tokyo Electric Co., or TEPCO, Saturday began pouring seawater and boric acid into its Fukushima Daiichi power plant Unit 1 reactor, whose core partially melted. On Sunday TEPCO released air containing radioactive materials for more than 2 hours and injected water at the Unit 3 nuclear reactor container vessel to reduce pressure and temperature to save the reactor from a possible meltdown.

Critical core cooling systems failed at both reactors, while Unit 2 was not in trouble.

Released steam raised radiation levels above safety limits outside the Unit 3 reactor Sunday, TEPCO officials said, adding they informed the government of an 'emergency situation.' Still, they said, there was no immediate threat to human health.

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