New explosion shakes stricken Japanese nuclear plant
Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon, Reuters
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – A fresh explosion rocked a stricken Japanese nuclear power plant on Tuesday and some workers were ordered to leave the site, a sign that the situation may be getting more serious at the complex that was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
As concern about the crippling economic impact of the double disaster mounted, Japanese stocks plunged 7.2 percent to their lowest level in nearly two years, compounding a drop of 7.6 percent the day before.
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi complex said radiation levels around the nuclear site rose fast immediately after the blast, the third there, but were still far from levels authorities say would cause large-scale radiation sickness.
Authorities are trying to prevent meltdowns in all three of the plant’s nuclear reactors by flooding the chambers with sea water to cool them down.
Japan has asked the United States for more equipment to help cool the reactors, after a dangerous drop in cooling water levels that exposed fuel rods in the No. 2 reactor, where Tuesday’s blast took place.
“It was a hydrogen explosion. We are still assessing the cause and unsure whether the explosion was caused by damage to the suppression chamber,” an official at the nuclear safety agency told Reuters. He did not have any more details.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency said it was not yet known if the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel had been damaged.