Japan may be losing the battle at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after a rise in radiation levels meant attempts to stabilize the situation had to be halted.
Smoke has been seen coming from the site on Wednesday, which has already been hit with explosions and fires since Friday’s mega-quake .
Japanese news agency NHK broadcast pictures of what seemed to be a column of smoke rising from the reactor at Unit 3 of the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant, hours after a fire broke out at the nuclear reactor.
Tokyo Electric Power Co suggested it could indicate the water inside the spent fuel pool within the reactor could be boiling. The reactor itself is feared to have cracked.
Further operations at the facility were suspended to prevent Fukushima-1 plant from melting down. Due to a surge in radiation, all 50 remaining workers who were dealing with the crisis were withdrawn from the facility on Wednesday, but allowed to return almost an hour later, according to Kyodo news agency. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the process of cooling the reactors with water was disrupted by the need to pull the workers out.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said it would use helicopters and fire trucks to spray water to prevent further radiation leaks and to cool down the reactors. But this will have to be delayed until the wind over Fukushima-1 eases.
The Kyodo agency has been reporting on the status of the Fukushima-1 reactors. As of early Wednesday, cooling failed at reactors 1, 2, and 3. The buildings of the reactors have also been damaged by the series of the recent explosions.
Reactor 1’s core is partially melted. The fuel rods in reactor 2 are fully exposed temporarily. Reactor 3 area revealed high levels of radiation. Seawater was pumped into the reactors to cool them down.
Potential meltdown is feared at reactor 2.
Reactor 4 suffered an explosion at the pool storage of spent fuel rods. No water was poured in to cool the pool and the water level was not observed. A fire was seen at the premises on Wednesday.
Reactors 5 and 6 showed a slight rise in the temperature of the spent fuel pools.
Early Wednesday, the level of radiation at the plant surged to 10 millisieverts per hour and then dropped to 8-6 millisieverts. Still, this is at least ten times above average. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency suggests it happened due to a possible radiation leak from reactor 2.
Officials reported that 70 per cent of fuel rods at one of the six reactors at Fukushima-1 were significantly damaged in the aftermath of Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. The toll is further enlarged by reports of 33 per cent of fuel rods having been damaged at another reactor.
An official from Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the worst case scenario would be if the rods became exposed as they can break easily.
“Under such circumstances, the radiation material which is normally contained inside the container could seep out of it,” he added as cited by the Associated Press.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says a computer system that forecasts the spread of radioactivity has not been working due to malfunctioning monitoring posts around the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant, reports Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The government has ordered some 140,000 people in the vicinity of the plant to stay indoors.
One hundred and sixty kilometers North of Tokyo the radiation level was exceeding the norm by 300 times. The radiation level in Tokyo, measured by people arriving at the airport, came out 11 times higher than what is deemed safe.