Officials admit they may have to bury reactors under concrete – as happened at Chernobyl. Government says it was overwhelmed by the scale of twin disasters.
By David Derbyshire
March 19, 2011
The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears – as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing ‘several radiation deaths’ by the UN International Atomic Energy.
Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.
After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis.
He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: ‘The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans.
‘In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster.’
Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the crisis’ severity.
It is now officially on a par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Only the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 has topped the scale.
Deputy director general of the NISA, Hideohiko Nishiyama, also admitted that they do not know if the reactors are coming under control.
He said: ‘With the water-spraying operations, we are fighting a fire we cannot see. That fire is not spreading, but we cannot say yet that it is under control.’
But prime minister Naoto Kan insisted that his country would overcome the catastrophe
‘We will rebuild Japan from scratch,’ he said in a televised speech: ‘In our history, this small island nation has made miraculous economic growth thanks to the efforts of all Japanese citizens. That is how Japan was built.’
It comes after pictures emerged showing overheating fuel rods exposed to the elements through a huge hole in the wall of a reactor building at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant.