Japanese earthquake causes radiation concerns at nuclear reactor

03/11/11 Seán Kinane
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Authorities in Japanese are releasing slightly radioactive vapor in order to ease pressure at a nuclear reactor whose cooling system failed following today’s earthquake.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency says the massive 8.9 earthquake caused a power outage. That increased pressure to one-and-a-half times normal inside one of six boiling water reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant

Japanese Cabinet Minister Yukio Edano was translated on Al Jazeera English.

"So the emergency shut down has been conducted but the process of cooling down the reactor is currently not going as planned. As of 4:36 P.M. we received a report that the water cannot be pumped and we are currently working on how to obtain enough electricity so that the water can all be pumped into the reactor's coolers. So we're using all of the backup electricity systems that are available there."

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the radioactivity would not affect human health or the environment.

President Barack Obama says the United States is airlifting purified water coolant to Japan to try to help release pressure on the nuclear reactor.

"When I spoke to Prime Minister Kan I specifically asked him about the nuclear plants and their potential vulnerability as a consequence of the earthquake. He indicated that they are monitoring the situation very closely. So far they have not seen evidence of radiation leaks but, obviously, you've got to take all potential precautions. I've asked Steve Chu, our Energy Secretary, to be in close contact with their personnel to provide any assistance that's necessary but also to make sure that if, in fact, there have been breaches in the safety system on these nuclear plants, that they're dealt with right away."

The largest earthquake on record in Japan spawned a 23-foot tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks.

In the closest major city to the epicenter, Sendai city, Japanese police say 200 to 300 bodies were found.

The tsunami has caused some damage as far away as the Pacific coast of the United States and Mexico.

Previous WMNF news coverage of the Japan earthquake

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