Nuclear fears at Fukushima

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JAPANESE Prime Minister Naoto Kan this morning said the situation at the country’s damaged nuclear power plants remained “worrisome”, although officials said pressure inside a third damaged reactor was falling.

The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) yesterday warned of further hydrogen explosions at Fukushima Daiichi, the site of a blast on Friday that blew the roof off the reactor building, as engineers vent the plants to relieve pressure caused by overheating cores.

Venting would release small levels of radiation, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company said.

Some of Fukushima’s plants are being cooled using seawater after water supplies were knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami.

A partial meltdown in reactor 1, the site of Friday’s blast, remains a possibility according to cabinet secretary Yukio Edano.

More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from a 20km radius around Fukushima Daiichi and a 10km zone around nearby Fukushima Daini around 180 miles north-east of Tokyo, the IAEA said.

Radiation was also 400 times the normal level at the Onagawa plant, where a state of emergency was declared, but authorities said the reactors were under control.

The World Health Organisation said the public health risk from Japan’s atomic plants remained “quite low” yesterday.

Japan has generated nuclear power since the late 1970s, and now gets around a third of its power from nuclear sources.

The shutdown of some of the country’s 55 plants has forced the government into imposing rolling blackouts for 3m homes, starting this morning, to prevent an all-out power outage on the damaged grid.

Energy and climate secretary Chris Huhne yesterday ordered a “thorough report on the implications of the situation in Japan and the lessons to be learned” for UK nuclear power.

A US senator went further, calling for the country to “put the brakes on” the States’ nuclear power scheme.