Japan Orders Evacuation Near 2nd Nuclear Plant
Published: March 11, 2011
Kyodo News, via Associated Press
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About 45,000 people were affected by the evacuation order at the Daiichi plant, where those living within a six-mile radius were told to leave. The evacuation of the second plant was for a one-mile radius because “there is no sign that radiation has been emitted outside,” an official said.
Failure of the cooling systems allowed pressure to build up beyond the design capacity of the reactors. Small amounts of radioactive vapor were expected to be released into the atmosphere to prevent damage to the containment systems, safety officials said. They said that the levels of radiation were not large enough to threaten the health of people outside the plants, and that the evacuations had been ordered as a precaution.
Nuclear safety officials focused initially on the Daiichi plant. But by Saturday morning Japan had declared states of emergency for five reactors at the two plants, an escalation that added to worries about the safety of nuclear facilities in the quake-prone Japanese islands.
The Daiichi and Daini plants are 10 miles apart in Fukushima Prefecture, about 150 miles north of Tokyo and close to the quake’s epicenter off the coast.
The plants’ problems were described as serious but were far short of a catastrophic emergency like the partial core meltdown that occurred at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979.
A Japanese nuclear safety panel said the radiation levels were 1,000 times above normal in a reactor control room at the Daiichi plant. Some radioactive material had also seeped outside, with radiation levels near the main gate measured at eight times normal, NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, quoted nuclear safety officials as saying.
The safety officials said there was “no immediate health hazard” to residents from the leaks, which they described as “minute,” and people were urged to stay calm.
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