Japan Update: Government "Quietly" Evacuates More People From Around Plant as Fears Mount of Reactor Breach
Unfortunately, Japan's Fukushima nuclear facility is still in crisis mode. Despite the heroic efforts of the "Fukushima 50" and others who have made great strides to alleviate the problems at the plant, the situation is not yet fully under control. According to the New York Times:
Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control.
The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.
What seems to have precipitated that move is a setback at Fukushima reactor 3. Evidence suggests that the reactor may have been significantly breached, raising "the possibility that radiation from the mox fuel in the reactor — a combination of uranium and plutonium — could be released." Again, the Times:
One sign that a breach may have occurred in the reactor vessel, [Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency deputy director-general Hidehiko] Nishiyama said, took place on Thursday when three workers who were trying to connect an electrical cable to a pump in a turbine building next to the reactor were injured when they stepped into water that was found to be significantly more radioactive than normal in a reactor.
Alternatively, the radioactive water could be coming from some other part of the facility.
Earlier this week, it was reported that a radioactive isotope had been found in the Tokyo water supply, stoking fears about the severity of the Fukushima crisis.
Meanwhile , the death toll from the twin natural disasters that struck Japan on March 11 has now topped 10,000, with an estimated 17,500 people missing.