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A week after an earthquake powerful enough to shift the earth's axis by 6.5 inches, shorten the day by 1.6 microseconds, and push Japan two feet into the ground, the country is struggling with multiple crises. Any one of these would test the strongest of nations. Japan has a nuclear crisis, a fuel crisis, 430,000 people homeless, 2 million households without power, 1.4 million without water – all that running concurrently with the task of recovering the bodies of over 9,000 people still thought to be missing. To say that this is the greatest emergency Japan has faced since the second world war – as the prime minister, Naoto Kan, said on Monday – is no exaggeration.
Radiation levels above and around the two stricken reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi No 1 nuclear plant have reached such a peak that crews trying to douse one reactor and its spent fuel rod pool were forced back. Increasingly, the ad hoc attempts to cool down the reactors and the pools – by using high pressure hoses from fire engines and Chinook helicopters dumping water from the air – appear not to have worked. The latest status of the four reactors at the plant hardly makes reassuring reading. That leaves reconnecting the plant to the grid and restarting the cooling pumps inside as the last line of defence before a major release of radiation.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Japan ... how long the crisis?
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