The New York Times reports 3rd Blast Strikes Japan Nuclear Plant as Workers Struggle to Cool Reactor

An explosion early Tuesday morning damaged the No. 2 reactor at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the third in a series of blasts that have now hit each of the three crippled reactors at the plant, plant officials said.

It was not immediately clear if the blast was caused by the buildup of hydrogen, as occurred at the two other reactors at Daiichi — one on Saturday and the most recent one on Monday, when there was also a large explosion at the No. 3 reactor. Some early reports in the Japanese press suggested the latest explosion amounted to a different and more critical problem than the previous two.

This explosion, reported to have occurred at 6:14 a.m., happened in the “pressure suppression room” in the cooling area of the reactor and inflicted some degree of damage on the pool of water used to cool the reactor, officials of Tokyo Electric Power said. But they did not say whether or not the incident had impacted the integrity of the steel containment structure that shields the nuclear fuel.

Any damage to the steel containment vessel of a nuclear reactor is considered critical because it raises the prospect of an uncontrolled release of radioactive material and full meltdown of the nuclear fuel inside. To date, even during the four-day crisis in Japan that amounts to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, workers had managed to avoid a breach of a containment vessel and had limited releases of radioactive steam to relatively low levels.

Details of what happened remain unclear, with executives of Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator, giving only preliminary reports and declining to answer questions from reporters pressing for more information, while repeatedly apologizing “for causing concern and inconvenience.”

Nikkei Drops 6% in First Hour on Tuesday, 12% in 2 Days

CNNMoney reports Tokyo’s Nikkei drops nearly 6%

Japanese stocks continued to plummet Tuesday, falling nearly 6% in the first hour of trading, as the nation continues to cope with the aftermath of last week’s earthquake.

The Nikkei-225 index, the most prominent measure of Tokyo market stocks, dropped 566 points, or 5.9%, within the first 60 minutes of the session. That was on top of a 6.2% drop Monday, the first full trading day after the quake.

The Tokyo market opened shortly after the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan reported an “explosive impact” at the plant’s No. 2 reactor, a day after a hydrogen explosion rocked another reactor.

Anxiety in Japan grows as rescue workers find more bodies

Message Boards Used to Contact Loved Ones

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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