Latest reports suggest that, for now at least, a major meltdown looks like being avoided at a nuclear power plant in northeast Japan that was badly damaged by the massive earthquake that struck yesterday afternoon.
Getting clear information on the situation is difficult – one US news station, for example, suggested in one segment there had been about 80 aftershocks since yesterday’s main temblor, but in a graphic a couple of minutes later said it was about 180. (The former seems much more likely, although the aftershocks, some of which have topped magnitude 6, have been so regular it’s hard to keep track).
According to a Reuters report, radiation is leaking from a plant in Fukushima after a large explosion earlier this afternoon apparently blew off the roof. The evacuation radius was increased from an initial 10 kilometre radius to 20 kilometres, and officials are said to be distributing iodine to locals to help protect them from radiation exposure.
But despite initial speculation among some news stations determined to press analysts and correspondents to discuss ‘the worst case scenario,’ experts contacted by Reuters said Japan shouldn’t see a repeat of the Chernobyl disaster in Russia.
‘They said pictures of mist above the plant suggested only small amounts of radiation had been expelled as part of measures to ensure its stability, far from the radioactive clouds Chernobyl spewed out 25 years ago,’ Reuters reported. ‘Valeriy Hlyhalo, deputy director of the Chernobyl nuclear safety centre, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying Japanese reactors were better protected than Chernobyl.’