Japanese nuclear crisis

Japanese authorities are operating on the presumption that possible meltdowns are under way at two nuclear reactors, two days after a massive earthquake, a government official said Sunday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano added, however, that there have been no indications yet of hazardous emissions of radioactive material into the atmosphere.
The attempts to avert a possible nuclear crisis, centered on the Fukushima Daiichi facility in northeast Japan, came as rescuers frantically scrambled to find survivors following the country's strongest-ever earthquake and a devastating tsunami that, minutes later, brought crushing walls of water that wiped out nearly everything in their paths.
Edano told reporters there is a "possibility" of a meltdown at the plant's No. 1 reactor, adding, "It is inside the reactor. We can't see." He then said authorities are also "assuming the possibility of a meltdown" at the facility's No. 3 reactor.
A meltdown is a catastrophic failure of the reactor core, with a potential for widespread radiation release.
Edano said only a "minor level" of radiation has been released into the environment -- saying it all came from a controlled release of radioactive steam, insisting there have been no leaks and it is not harmful to human health.
About 180,000 people were being evacuated from within 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) of the Daiichi plant, in addition to the thousands that have already been taken away who live closer by. More than 30,000 more were being evacuated from their homes within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiini nuclear facility located in the same prefecture.
The news of the possible meltdowns came as rescue efforts resumed Sunday morning in areas devastated by the 8.9-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami, which unleashed a wall of seawater that decimated entire neighborhoods.
Rescuers dug through mud and rubble to find the buried, both alive and dead. Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said more than 3,000 people have been rescued, according to the nation's Kyodo News Agency.
The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami rose to 801, with hundreds more missing, authorities said Sunday.
At least 678 are missing, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters. The number of dead is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas
The number is expected to rise as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas. In one coastal town alone -- Minamisanriku, in Myagi Prefecture -- some 9,500 people, half the town's population, were unaccounted for.
With most stores and gas stations closed, a main task for many in the hardest-hit areas Sunday morning was getting by -- and, in some cases, getting out. Scores lined up at the few gas stations, drug stores, and supermarkets that had opened, with the shelves largely empty amid the rush to get food and the difficulty in restocking it.

hey also braved an seemingly endless barrage of aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey reported more than 140 such quakes -- magnitude 4.5 and higher, including a 6.2-magnitude quake just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday -- in, near, or off of the east coast of the Japanese island.
Friday's quake was centered about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Sendai, a coastal city with a population of about a million. While there was little visible earthquake damage in that city, the tsunami brought devastation at least several miles inland.
Sunday's sunshine highlighted muddy tsunami debris on every street. The force of the water wiped away houses, stacked cars on top of each other, and left the ground covered in thick, brown mud.
Search-and-rescue helicopters flew over the city to rescue anyone trapped in the rubble. A few hundred people were still unaccounted for in just one neighborhood of Sendai.
Meanwhile, millions more around Japan were dealing with other repercussions of Friday's quake.
About 2.5 million households -- just over 4% of the total in Japan -- were without electricity Sunday, according to Ichiro Fujisaki, the nation's U.S. ambassador. This marks a drop from the previous number, when 6 million households had no power.
A desire to conserve power prompted decisions to turn off lights Saturday at a host of landmarks all around Japan -- some of them hundreds of miles from the main quake's epicenter, like the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka, Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, and Bay Bridge in Yokohama, the Kyodo News Agency reported.
Japan plans to dispatch 100,000 members of its defense forces to the quake-ravaged region -- double the previous number -- Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Sunday, according to Kyodo.

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