Japanese specialists have been able to bring under control the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, damaged by Friday’s devastating earthquake and posing the risk of a radiation leak, a source at the UN nuclear watchdog told RIA Novosti over the phone on Sunday.
The tremor, which struck the country’s northeast, was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, registering nine points on the Richter scale and causing a 10-meter tsunami wave that swept away people, houses and cars.
The Fukushima Number One nuclear power station, about 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was hit by a blast on Saturday. The explosion at the first nuclear unit destroyed the reactor turbine building, blowing away its walls and roof, but the local authorities said the reactor itself was not damaged. A steel container covering the reactor has protected it from the blast, they said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said early on Sunday that the plant’s third nuclear unit also posed the risk of an explosion.
“The situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is currently under control. Japanese specialists are currently taking truly heroic efforts to solve problems at the nuclear power plant damaged by the earthquake. They are timely and fully informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the source said.
“The nervousness over these developments has abated and I believe that the accident is most likely to remain qualified at level 4 on the international INES scale,” the source said.
The international INES scale runs from 1 (anomaly) to 7 (major accident). According to the IAEA’s definition, a level-4 accident is defined as having “local consequences,” such as a “minor release of radioactive material.”
The Japanese government’s spokesman has said that the radiation at the third nuclear unit of the Fukushima nuclear power plant remained at the normal level.
EARTHQUAKE, TSUNAMI DEATH TOLL
The death toll from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on Friday may climb to over 10,000 people in the Miyagi prefecture alone, local police chief Naoto Takeuchi said on Sunday.
The Japanese government scrambled to control overheating reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and some 180,000 people joined more than 350,000 earlier evacuees by moving out of a 20-kilometer radius from the plant a day after one of its reactors partially melted on Saturday, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The number of people who have died or remain unaccounted for exceeds 2,000 and over 600 bodies have been found in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures on the Pacific coast, the agency said, referring to the police.
Also, local authorities have been unable to contact tens of thousands of people, and at least 20,820 buildings have been fully or partially damaged in quake-hit areas, the agency said.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan early on Sunday instructed the government to boost the number of Self-Defense Forces personnel sent to quake-hit areas to 100,000, one of the largest ever for an SDF operation, the agency said, referring to Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.
RUSSIA SENDS RESCUERS TO QUAKE-STRICKEN JAPAN
Japan has agreed to accept a team of Russian rescuers to join the search for survivors of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said on Sunday.
“An Il-76 plane of the Russian Emergencies Ministry is preparing to fly to Japan to deliver about 50 rescuers, three relief and rescue vehicles and the necessary equipment,” Irina Andrianova said.
Russia will provide this kind of help to Japan for the first time.
MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti)