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Nuclear crisis in Japan

In the aftermaths of the massive and devastating earthquake that hit Japan yesterday a nuclear crisis has unfolded in the country. Yesterday Japan officials declared a state of emergency at two nuclear power plants in the Fukushima Prefecture. The state of emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi (No 1) plant and at the Fukushima Daini (No 2) plant was issued after problems with the cooling systems. See our live-update from yesterday for more info.

More news on this developing story will be published here as they come.

We are taking a break from the live-updating. You can continue to follow our updates about the nuclear crisis in Japan here. For live updates about the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan you can check out Al Jazeera or the Guardian.

Update 38: Meltdown may be under way at Fukushima nuclear reactor, official with Japan's nuclear safety agency tells CNN.

Update 37: AJE has this quote from a Tokyo Electric Power Co spokesman about the No.3 reactor failure:

All the functions to keep cooling water levels in No.3 reactor have failed
at the Fukushima No.1 plant. As of 5:30am, water injection stopped and inside pressure is rising slightly."

Update 36: While the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending two experts to Japan AFP reports that the operators of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where a second reactor system is overheating, says there is a risk of a second explosion.

Update 35: The Washington Post writes that the U.N. nuclear watchdog says Japan is evacuating 170,000 people from the area near a nuclear power plant damaged in the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Update 34:

FLASH: Japan's TEPCO says it has started preparations for releasing pressure from Fukushima Daiichi No. 3 reactor after cooling failedless than a minute ago via web

Update 33: Yesterday 3 people had tested positive for high radiation levels. That number has now jumped to 160 says a Japanese nuclear safety official, AJE reports.

Update 32: The emergency cooling system of No.3 reactor has now also stopped working, the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has announced. Sea water is being pumped into the No.1 reactor chamber - and officials are scrambling to secure water supply to the No.3 reactor.

FLASH: Japan's nuclear safety agency says Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant No. 3 reactor's emergency cooling system not functioningless than a minute ago via web

Update 31:

My colleague in Tokyo reports that efforts to cool the core are failing at Fukushima nuke plant. Much remains unclear: http://j.mp/f9owtRless than a minute ago via bitly

Update 30: Greenpeace has issued a statement regarding the radioactivity release from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan:

"Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of a nuclear disaster, following already devastating earthquake and tsunami. [...] How many more warnings do we before we finally grasp that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous? The nuclear industry always tells us that a situation like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet Japan is currently in the middle of a potentially devastating nuclear crisis. Once again, we are reminded of the inherent risks of nuclear power, which will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster."

Update 29: There is radiation leaking out, and since the possibility of exposure is high, it's quite scary said 17-year-old Masanori Ono.

Update 28: If this accident stops right now Fukushima in Japan will already be one of the three worst nuclear accidents in history, CNN reports.

Update 27: The third day since the massive earthquake and the nuclear crisis is still a big and real threat in Japan. Meanwhile about 60,000 people have formed a chain around a nuclear power station in Germany to protest its continued operation. The nuclear accident in Japan has sparked massive protests and discussions about the future of atomic power in Germany.

Update 26: The operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, will fill the leaking reactor with sea water to cool it down and reduce pressure in the unit, a government spokesman says to AJE. Flooding the reactor core with sea water is the last emergency option available to try and cool down reactor fuel rods and prevent a meltdown.

Update 25: The Japanese government has now evacuated more than 300,000 people from their homes near the Fukushima Daiichi (No 1) nuclear power plant.

More than 300,000 people have now been evacuated from homes in northern #Japan due to #Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 event.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Update 24: This is coming from our own Twitter-feed, which is another source of information regarding the nuclear situation in Japan: These NASA satellite images show the coastline before and after the tsunami in Japan. And according to German media about 60,000 people have, in response to the nuclear emergency in Japan, formed a chain around a nuclear station in Germany to protest its continued operation.

Update 23: We know have some updates about those three people that have been affected by radiation: According to this Twitter post "3 patients out of 90 were tested for radiation levels. All 3 were above the normal levels. They were scrubbed. No lasting symptoms." Edit: This has now been confirmed by media. AJE writes:

"Of 90 people from within the 10km exclusion zone around Fukushima nuclear power plant tested, three have given positive results for radiation exposure, says Japanese public broadcaster NHK. That's just over three per cent. Some 45,000 people who live within the 10km radius were told to evacuate their homes in the early hours of this morning, when pressure inside reactors was building rapidly."

Update 22:

NHK suggesting that people in the area should clean themselves thoroughly and wear long sleeves. Avoid eating food grown outdoors.less than a minute ago via web

Update 21: Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said:

"The nuclear reactor is surrounded by a steel reactor container, which is then surrounded by a concrete building. The concrete building collapsed. We found out that the reactor container inside didn't explode."

"We've confirmed that the reactor container was not damaged. The explosion didn't occur inside the reactor container. As such there was no large amount of radiation leakage outside. At this point, there has been no major change to the level of radiation leakage outside, so we'd like everyone to respond calmly. We've decided to fill the reactor container with sea water. Trade minister Kaieda has instructed us to do so. By doing this, we will use boric acid to prevent criticality."

AJE writes: "Edano said due to the falling level of cooling water, hydrogen was generated and that leaked to the space between the building and the container and the explosion happened when the hydrogen mixed with oxygen there."

Update 20: According to Kohei Hayashi three people have been "confirmed to be affected by radiation". Still no info about this from media. And Reuters are reporting that police patrolling near the Fukushima nuclear plant are wearing respiratory eqipment.

Update 19: Now we are getting contradicting statements from the Japanese government and TEPCO, the owners of the affected nuclear plants. TEPCO seems to be saying that there has been a meltdown but the Japanese government says that this isn't the case.

Update 18: Strong aftershock quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6 hits Fukushima:

Magnitude 6 earthquake hits Fukushima where leaking nuclear plant is basedless than a minute ago via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking

Update 17: Independent nuclear safety analyst John Large tells Al Jazeera that, by venting the radioactive steam from the inner reactor into the outer dome, a reaction may have occurred, causing the explosion: "When I look at the size of the explosion, it is my opinion that there could be a very large leak ... the fuel continues to generate heat." John Large says that by the end of the day "we should know what the situation really is" and that: "All the jigsaw piece of the Three Mile Island disaster are being replicated at this plant - and this has gone beyond Three Mile Island."

Update 16: The deputy cabinet secretary for public relations and director of global communications at the Prime Minister's Office of Japan says there is no no damage to the nuclear reactor container following the explosion.

Blast was caused by accumulated hydrogen combined with oxygen in the space between container and outer structure. No damage to container.less than a minute ago via web

Update 15: The cause and consequences of the explosion at the nuclear plant in Japan continues to be unclear. But Ian Hore-Lacy believes the explosion was due to hydrogen igniting:

Ian Hore-Lacy, communications director at the World Nuclear Association, a London-based industry body, told Reuters he believed the explosion was due to hydrogen igniting, adding it may not necessarily have caused radiation leakage. "It is obviously an hydrogen explosion ... due to hydrogen igniting ...If the hydrogen has ignited, then it is gone, it doesn't pose any further threat," he said.

Update 14: BBC News says that the operators of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are claiming that the reactor container was not damaged in the large explosion.

Update 13: AJE reports on the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the effects of the earthquake in Japan in this video: Japan fears nuclear plant meltdown.

" >" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="550" height="339">

Update 12:

Japanese chief cabinet secretary confirms radiation leakage occured from explosion at #Fukushima nuclear power plant - Reutersless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Update 11: The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant says the blast there happened during an aftershock to Friday's quake. AJE also reports that the Japanese government is taking security measures for an possible nuclear meltdown:

"Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government is taking contingency measures and collecting iodine, with can be used against radiation sickness, as officials said they have detected eight times the normal radiation levels outside the facility."

Update 10:

NHK news showing the result of explosion at Fukushima Nuclear Plant. The wall of one building gone completely. #earthquake #japanless than a minute ago via web

Update 9:

Japan nuclear plant update: Area residents told to stay indoors, not drink tap water and to cover faces with wet towels or masks - Sky Newsless than a minute ago via breakingnews.com

Update 8: Al Jazeera interviews Peter Hayes, the executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable development in Melbourne, about the current situation and of possible scenarios in the quake-hit nuclear plants:

Update 7: BBC News shows footage of the explosion at the nuclear power plant:

"There has been an explosion at a Japanese nuclear power plant that was hit by Friday's devastating earthquake. Pictures show a blast at the Fukushima plant and initial reports say several workers were injured. Nuclear expert, Malcolm Grimston told the BBC that nuclear materials may have been able to escape."

Update 6: AFP and other media sources now confirms that an explosion has occurred at the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. According to Reuters and NHK "several people appear to have been injured after the nuclear plant explosion".

Update 5: We are getting words that an explosion has taken place at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. More info shortly.

Update 4: Well this quote from AJE doesn't sound good: Peter Hayes, a nuclear expert, tells Al Jazeera "it's still possible that the reactor workers can stabilise the situation" at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant "if power is brought back, if coolant is brought into the reactor", but "we're really right at the precipice of a massive nuclear crisis".

Update 3: Following the news from yesterday that fuel rod have been exposed above cooling water level at the Fukushima nuclear plant Japanese nuclear authorities now say "there is a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at a reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPC) Fukushima Daiichi plant may be melting or have melted".

Experts have said that if the fuel rods have been damaged, it means that it could develop into a breach of the nuclear reactor vessel and the question then becomes one of how strong the containment structure around the vessel is and whether it has been undermined by the earthquake – and if it can withstand the likely aftershocks.

Update 2: I am quoting AJE directly here so that we can get back quickly to the latest news:

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant "may be experiencing nuclear meltdown", according to reports by Japanese media on Saturday, while the Associated Press says an unnamed Japanese nuclear safety commission official has said a meltdown at nuclear power plant is possible."

Update 1: Al Jazeera English reports that "scientists are warning that Japan may be facing a nuclear disaster on the scale of Chernobyl." They quote Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert for the Global Security Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

"The events that occurred at these plants, which is the loss of both offsite power and onsite power, is one of the rarest events to happen in a nuclear power plant, and all indications are that the Japanese do not have the situation under control."

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