Nuclear reactor rods exposed
Published 14/03/2011 | 12:56
The fuel rods in one of Japan's damaged nuclear reactors have been temporarily fully exposed from their coolant, raising the risk of overheating and a meltdown.
A spokesman at the Fukushima plant said that Unit 2's rods were briefly exposed.
Sea water has been channelled into the reactor to cover the rods again.
Unit 2 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is the latest reactor to lose its ability to cool down. The other two reactors at the plant are facing a meltdown and authorities are racing to cool them with sea water.
The second hydrogen blast in three days has rocked Japan's earthquake-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and injuring 11 people.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said four army personnel and seven nuclear power plant workers were hurt when Unit 3 exploded. Mr Edano said one of the workers was seriously injured but still conscious and the four military staff were only slightly hurt and had already returned to their unit.
Later in the day, another reactor at the plant lost its cooling capacity, raising the risk of another explosion.
The US said it had shifted its offshore forces away from the plant after detecting low-level radioactive contamination. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was about 100 miles offshore when it detected the radiation, which US officials said was about the same as one month's normal exposure to natural background radiation.
It was not clear if the radiation had leaked during the latest explosion. The blast was felt 25 miles away, but the plant's operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits.
The explosion at the plant's Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool after a system failure in the wake of Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Mr Edano. The two disasters left at least 10,000 people dead.