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Japanese Earthquake Puts Nuclear Reactor at Risk

March 11, 2011

On Friday March 11, the largest earthquake in Japanese history (8.9) hit the eastern coast of Japan, causing the shutdown of reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear station and the Tohuku nuclear station. Backup power for the Fukushima Daiichi Unit-2 reactor did not function, which has put the cooling system at risk.  The cooling system keeps the extremely hot nuclear core from melting down, as well as the spent fuel rods in large pools from overheating and causing a fire. 

Currently, the emergency cooling system is running on limited battery power. The Japanese and United States governments are reported to be rushing emergency diesel fuel and batteries to the site, hoping to prevent a loss-of-coolant accident. Pressure in the reactor is 1.5 times normal levels and the reactor operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., is planning to release some of the pressure by venting radioactive vapor from the containment structure. The Japanese government has ordered an evacuation of those living within 2 miles of the facility; people within 10 kilometers have been ordered to stay indoors. 

PSR will continue to update our site on the situation.  For more information, contact Ira Helfand at


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