IWAKI, Japan – Japan’s top government spokesman says a partial meltdown is likely under way at second reactor affected by Friday’s massive earthquake and there is risk of another explosion at the plant.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Sunday that radiation at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima briefly rose above legal limits, but it has since declined significantly.
Three reactors at the plant lost their cooling functions in the aftermath of quake and tsunami because of a power outage.
Edano said operators released slightly radioactive air from Unit 3 Sunday, while injecting water into it as an effort to reduce pressure and temperature to save the reactor from a possible meltdown.
Still, a partial meltdown in the unit is “highly possible,” he told reporters.
“Because it’s inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it but we are taking measures on the assumption of the possible partial meltdown,” he said.
The Japanese government said radiation emanating from the plant appeared to have decreased after Saturday’s blast, which produced a cloud of white smoke that obscured the complex. But the danger was grave enough that officials pumped seawater into the reactor to avoid disaster and moved 170,000 people from the area.
“Evacuations around both affected nuclear plants have begun,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement to Reuters.
Sky News is reporting that up to 160 people may have suffered radiation exposure. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says people are being tested for radiation exposure.