Tokyo Notes

Japan’s Nuclear Radiation Crisis?

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Tokyo Notes

Japan’s Nuclear Radiation Crisis?

Explosions at a stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima prompt concerns over radiation spreading as far as Tokyo.

Japan’s darkest hour, as the ongoing crisis prompted by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami was described by Prime Minister Naoto Kan over the weekend, has become even blacker.

I’m down in Kyoto now as a precautionary measure following the ongoing problems stabilizing the Fukushima nuclear plants. Reuters is describing it as a potential catastrophe after explosions at the Daiichi plant ‘sent low levels of radiation floating towards Tokyo.’

According to the report:

‘Radiation levels in the city of Maebashi, 60 miles north of Tokyo, and in Chiba Prefecture, nearer the city, were up to 10 times normal levels, Kyodo news agency said. Only minute levels were found in the capital itself, which so far were "not a problem", city officials said.

‘“The possibility of further radioactive leakage is heightening," a grim-faced Kan said in an address to the nation. "We are making every effort to prevent the leak from spreading. I know that people are very worried but I would like to ask you to act calmly.”’

AP is reporting that one safety official has said the water inside the waste fuel storage pool for a damaged reactor ‘may be boiling.’ It adds that the Economy Ministry’s Hidehiko Nishiyama told reporters today: ‘We cannot deny the possibility of water boiling’ in the pool, adding that he sought to ‘avoid commenting on the potential risks from the rising temperatures caused by a failure of systems required to keep the spent fuel rods cool.’

Tokyo was far from panic-stricken when I left, but there was certainly an element of panic buying as stores ran out of things like bread, eggs and milk, as well as candles and batteries. There are still concerns that a major aftershock could strike the Sendai region or even Tokyo. This morning there was a moderate temblor centered around the Tokyo Bay area.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg said today that a Japanese research centre that specializes in the health effects of radiation will likely be dispatching two doctors this week to investigate the impact of the Fukushima fallout. Evan Douple, associate chief of researchat the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, said: ‘Additional people may follow to help measure radiation levels and work with local health officials to better understand the effects of exposure.’

— The Editor