Japan raced to avert a catastrophe after fire broke out last night at a nuclear plant that has sent low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and triggering growing international alarm at the escalating crisis.
The operator of the quake-crippled plant said workers were trying to put out the blaze at the building housing the No.4 reactor of the nuclear facility in Fukushima, 150 miles north of Tokyo.
Experts say spent fuel rods in a cooling pool at the reactor could be exposed by the fire and spew more radiation into the atmosphere. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said two workers were missing after blasts at the facility a day earlier blew a hole in the building housing the No. 4 reactor.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan yesterday urged people within 18 miles of the facility — a population of 140,000 — to remain indoors, as authorities grappled with the world’s most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.
Officials in Tokyo said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal at one point but not a threat to human health in the sprawling high-tech city of 13 million people.
Radiation may spread to food
SINGAPORE – Radioactive materials spewed into the air by Japan’s earthquake-crippled nuclear plant may contaminate food and water resources, with children and unborn babies most at risk of possibly developing cancer.
Experts said exposure to radioactive materials has the potential to cause various kinds of cancers and abnormalities to fetuses, with higher levels of radiation seen as more dangerous.
Airlines, travelers avoid Tokyo
Scores of flights to Japan were halted or rerouted yesterday, and air travelers were avoiding Tokyo for fear of radiation from an earthquake-stricken nuclear plant.
Asian and European carriers were most affected. Deutsche Lufthansa said it was diverting flights away from Tokyo to Osaka and Nagoya, at least until the weekend. It said planes returning from Tokyo on Monday were not contaminated.
Quake-prone California questions nuclear safety
LOS ANGELES – Californians have long had an uneasy relationship with their two nuclear power plants, and the crisis in Japan raises new doubts about how long nuclear power will survive in the earthquake-prone state.
The first test of the Golden State’s support for nuclear power is coming soon, as the nuclear plants perched on the scenic but fault-laden California coastline since the early 1980s begin the process for 20-year license renewals.
California banned construction of new nuclear power plants in the 1970s, when the then-governor Jerry Brown joined ‘’no-nukes’’ activists in opposing construction of Diablo Canyon nuclear station on the Central Coast. Seismic safety worries played a prominent part in the campaign.