Japan has declared an emergency alert at another nuclear power plant in the north-east of the country, in Onagawa.
Radiation levels of about 700 times higher than normal have reportedly been detected at the facility. Authorities are currently investigating the source.
Earlier on Sunday, officials warned of the risk of another explosion at the Fukushima power plant, damaged in Friday’s earthquake. The government claims the plant can withstand the blast, just as the first reactor did on Saturday.
Japan’s chief government spokesman, Yukio Edano, said Sunday that the reactor at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility could go into meltdown and an explosion was possible. Reports state the reactor’s fuel rods have been exposed to the air for too long and have been damaged.
Further concerns were raised after the level of radiation in the nearby Miyagi prefecture increased 400-fold. It is not clear at the moment if the radiation came from the local nuclear plant, which was reported to be functioning properly, or drifted up from the Daiichi facility at Fukushima following Saturday’s explosion.
“I would hazard the guess that [the radiation] is coming from Fukushima Daiichi No 1 [reactor],” suggested Christopher Simons, professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo. “The good news is that a lot of the steam, which escaped in the explosion from Daiichi reactor No. 1 building yesterday, is relatively light isotopes – that is isotopes such as nitrogen-16. These isotopes have very short half-lives and cannot cause long-term damage to human health.”
The government has also assured that the radioactivity released so far does not pose a threat to human health. However, the number of people admitted to hospitals in the area surrounding Fukushima are said to be suffering exposure to radiation.
Meanwhile, in the Miyagi province alone, authorities placed the death toll estimate from the earthquake-triggered tsunami at more than 10,000. The confirmed death toll exceeds 1,500.
In Russia’s Far Eastern Sakhalin Region, located just 10km (6 miles) from Fukushima, officials continue receiving reports from the Japanese authorities about the possibility of a second meltdown. Although the current level of radiation is said to be normal, officials remain on high alert for any changes.
Watch Ekaterina Gracheva’s report from the Sakhalin Region.
The forecasters consider the predicted wind direction change good news – the wind is now going in the direction of the Pacific Ocean. That means that radioactive material would be carried by the winds blowing out to the Pacific. There is no reason for panic, experts say.
However, Dr. Robert Jacobs, a research associate professor of nuclear history and culture at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, says that these forecasts do not indicate that things are in good shape.
“If the wind is blowing this way it may alleviate any problem in Eastern Russia, it may alleviate any problem in the Korean Peninsula. But it could well bring some amount of radioactive flow-down on the North American continent, on the west coast of the United States.”
Harvey Wasserman, who has written on the subject of a sustainable, green-powered Earth, believes that a country with such a frequency of earthquakes and tsunamis as Japan should never have built nuclear plants.
“This is an endemic problem. We knew it was happening all along. There were many people in Japan that argued against these reactors being built, and now we’re seeing the consequences,” said Wasserman.
Shaun Burnie, nuclear energy consultant, says he would extend those accusations to the world-wide nuclear industry that is trying to conceal and diminish information about the Japanese nuclear crisis.
“In the last few days we’ve seen representatives from the industry, some of them acting as so-called independent experts from the institutes that are funded by the nuke industry, saying that ‘the situation is under control, this was meant to happen, it’s very reassuring, we need more nuclear power’. Nuclear power is inherently unsafe. Earthquakes are one hazard, but there are many more,” Burnie told RT.
Malcolm Grimston, energy expert at London-based think-tank Chatham House, believes there is no danger of massive radiation emission and claims the decision of the Japanese officials to flood the damaged reactors with sea water was quite a sensible one.
“So far, the [nuclear] fuel is still largely in the form that it was during normal operation and it is all contained within the extremely thick steel pressure vessel of its cold that so far is doing its job. Even if this pressure vessel were to be broken and to be breached -and it’s very difficult to imagine that this would happen, – they flooded the first reactor and now the third reactor with sea water which would absorb most of the heat. There would be local emission of radioactive material,” explained Grimston.