Fukushima nuclear crisis continues as radioactivity released from fire

03/15/11 wire reports including AP
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A U.S. nuclear industry official says there is evidence that the primary containment structure at one of the stricken Japanese reactors has been breached, raising the risk of further release of radioactive material.

That’s because of rising radiation levels near the suppression pool at the Number 2 reactor at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

At another reactor, Number 4, a fire in a storage pond for spent fuel released radioactivity "directly into the atmosphere." The fire was extinguished and radiation levels had dropped dramatically. But officials say the pond might still be boiling and they're asking the U.S. and Japanese military to help by having helicopters spray water on it.

Japan's transport ministry says it has imposed a no-fly zone over a 20-mile radius around the power plant, because of fears that radioactive particles leaking from the complex into the atmosphere could enter passing aircraft.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel today that Americans should have full confidence that the country’s 104 nuclear reactors are operating safely and responsibly. But Chu also said that the administration is committed to learning from the Japanese incident.

"Are there going to be lessons learned? I'm sure there will be and then we look back at our reactor fleet and we up our game. Every time we do this we march on to ever increasing safety."

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel says they will take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months while the country reconsiders plans to extend the life of its nuclear power plants.

Check out the really powerful "before/after" photos in this Associated Press online graphic below:

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