Rising smoke forced workers to evacuate the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan on Monday. Its still not clear how close crews are to restoring a cooling system at the earthquake-tsunami ravaged power plant.
No one can be certain that the system will work once all connections have been hooked up, but it is a central part of a desperation plan to cool down several reactors and pools of spent fuel rods which are leaking radiation.
Without water, the reactors and pools storing fuel rods, will at the least being emitting even greater amounts of radiation.
Tokyo Electric, the operator of the facility, said it ordered all workers out after smoke started rising from the building that encases Unit 3. The thought is that the smoke is not linked to the pool housing spent fuel rods.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, with the nuclear safety agency, said he did not believe the smoke is connected to the fuel pool. “We are checking the cause of the smoke.”
One of the more troubling recent developments at the plant is a surge in pressure, in a reactor core surrounding Unit 3, nobody can say how severe it is, or the likelihood of it exploding.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano spoke in an ominous tone, perhaps the first Japanese official to be fully transparent. “Even if certain things go smoothly, there would be twists and turns.” And, “at the moment we are not so optimistic that there will be a breakthrough.”
Outside of the facility, the World Health Organization is warning people not to consume spinach, water, and other foodstuffs from some parts of the country as it is now showing excessive levels of iodine.
In the village of Iitate, about 19 miles northwest of the nuclear power plant, the Health Ministry advised some 6,000 people not to drink the water because of elevated levels of iodine.
At least 18,000 people were killed in the earthquake and tsunami and tens of thousands have been left homeless. On Monday, the World Bank estimated that it will take at least 5 years to rebuild Japan at a cost of $235 billion.
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