Fukushima: The industry ministry said that “The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reported an abnormality Friday following a powerful earthquake which hit a wide area in northeastern Japan including Fukushima Prefecture”. According to Japanese government officials, “An inability to cool the reactors could cause radiation leaks, and both power plants are “bracing for the worst”. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the press that “At present we have no reports of any radioactive materials or otherwise affecting the surrounding areas”.
Residents within a 2 mile (3km) radius of Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been told to evacuate, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, told a news conference. Kyodo news agency said around 3,000 residents were being moved out.
Professor Tim Albram, a nuclear fuel engineer at the University of Manchester in the U.K., explained to the press that, “Reactors shut themselves down automatically when something called ‘ground acceleration’ is registered at a certain point, which is usually quite small. It will instantly drop control rods into the [nuclear] core”.
An IAEA official said: “All nuclear power plants need to keep fuel cool after the reactor is shut down and not producing energy. This is because after the shutdown the fuel elements are physically hot and radioactively hot, and there is therefore a safety risk.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that all the necessary precautions are being taken to prepare for radiation leaks, including evacuating thousands of residents within a 3-mile radius of the Fukushima facility. A base level of heat from nuclear decay continues to flow off the rods, however, and that’s the problem in the Fukushima and Onagawa plants.