THE LATEST: We’ve been covering the situation at the Fukushima power plant since 4:30 AM ET on Friday, March 11.
This video, via Gabe Rivera, shows the moment the explosion happened at the 1:22 second mark. More updates are below the video.
The first 24 hours of coverage are down below.
The latest is that there appears to have been an explosion at the plant, and at least 4 are injured. Massive plumes of smoke can be seen.
According to Russia Today, there have been 50K evacuated in the vicinity. Beyond that, the roof of one reactor apparently collapsed.
People in a wide vicinity have been told to cover their mouths as much as possible.
Update 5:10 AM: CNN is reporting that the evacuation zone has been expanded to 20KM around the plant.
Just outside the 20KM radius, notes CNN, is the city of Minamisoma, population 72K.
Update 8:06 AM: Kyodo has a long article explaining the latest, and at this moment there may still be reasons to be hopeful, specifically noting that the explosion is at the plant, near the reactor, but not inside vulnerable reactor #1.
The NYT also has a good technical explanation of what’s going on, including this hopeful sounding note:
Naoto Sekimura, a professor at Tokyo University, told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, that “only a small portion of the fuel has been melted. But the plant is shut down already, and being cooled down. Most of the fuel is contained in the plant case, so I would like to ask people to be calm.”
Meanwhile, large aftersshocks continue to rock the area.
Note: This post has several updates. Scroll to the bottom for the latest. The original post was at approximately 4:30 AM on March 11.
Original post: Ominous flash from Kyodo Wire:
The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reported an abnormality Friday following a powerful earthquake which hit a wide area in northeastern Japan including Fukushima Prefecture, the industry ministry said.
The system to cool reactor cores in case of emergency stopped at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., it said.
There are reports that the Japanese PM will declare a nuclear emergency.
Update: There’s no evidence of any radioactive leakage, but officials have confirmed that the cooling process for the nuclear plant has not yet gone according to plan.
Update 2: Japan has declared a nuclear emergency.
Update 3: 2000 residents near the Fukushima Nuclear Plant have been urged to evacuate.
Update 4: According to reports, Japanese jets have been ordered to fly over the Fukushima Nuclear plant
Update 5: According to Reuters, a Dam has broken in the same region as the at-risk nuclear power plant.
Update 6: The owner of the plant, TEPCO, says the reactor pressure is rising, and there are risks of a radiation leak, according to Reuters.
Update 7: Now the trade minister says a leak is possible.
Update 8: Word is, Japanese authorities will release a small amount of radioactive vapor into the air to ease pressure.
Update 9: Japan just expanded the evacuation range from 3 KM to 9 KM, says Reuters.
“The electrical grid is down. The emergency diesel generators have been damaged. The multi-reactor Fukushima atomic power plant is now relying on battery power, which will only last around eight hours. The danger is, the very thermally hot reactor cores at the plant must be continuously cooled for 24 to 48 hours. Without any electricity, the pumps won’t be able to pump water through the hot reactor cores to cool them. Once electricity is lost, the irradiated nuclear fuel could begin to melt down. If the containment systems fail, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur.
“In addition to the reactor cores, the storage pool for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel is also at risk. The pool cooling water must be continuously circulated. Without circulation, the still thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel in the storage pools will begin to boil off the cooling water. Within a day or two, the pool’s water could completely boil away. Without cooling water, the irradiated nuclear fuel could spontaneously combust in an exothermic reaction. Since the storage pools are not located within containment, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur. Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances. Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Kyodo is reporting that local radiation levels are 8 times more than normal.
Update 4:43 PM: Now according to Kyodo, radiation is measured at 1000x normal.
Update 5:05: The entire world is now watching the Fukushima plant. Here’s a llink to a satellite image of the plant, just to get some more perspective on where this is.
Update 5:33: Both reactors at the plant have been damaged, and officials say they have “lost control” of the pressure, according to Reuters.
Update 7:39: The latest from Kyodo Wire: Government holds emergency meeting on the plant, and is taking unprecedented stap of demanding the plant open a key valve.
Update 7:51: At least 20,000 people are being evacuated from the region says Reuters, which ominously quotes an expert who thinks there may be just a few hours until meltdown.
Update 3/12 12:19 AM: This just came from Reuters on twitter… REUTERS FLASH: #Japan nuclear authorities say high possibility of meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 reactor – Jiji
Update 3/12 12:26: Now a headline from Kyodo Wire: Fukushima nuke plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown. From AP via Steve Herman: A meltdown would potentially put humans at risk within a 6 KM range. What is a nuclear meltdown? Wikipedia has a good primer. WSJ: Authorities pouring water into reactor to “stop the meltdown.”
Update 3/12 2/21: First positive headlinein awhile from Kyodo: Pressure successfully released from Fukushima No. 1 reactor.
Saturday 3:50 ET: There’s been a large explosion at the nuclear plant and the outer wall has been destroyed, according to Reuters.
Update 3:59: Massive clouds seen after Fukushima explasion. Rports of at leat 4 injured.
Get more updates at Business Insider.