US and France both giving much bleaker appraisal of Japanese nuclear crisis than Japanese government
For example, per the NYT, the Japanese government is warning people to stay 12 miles away from the plant. The US embassy in Tokyo is telling Americans to stay 50 miles away.
The chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave a significantly bleaker appraisal of the threat posed by Japan’s nuclear crisis than the Japanese government, saying on Wednesday that the damage at one crippled reactor was much more serious than Japanese officials had acknowledged and advising Americans to evacuate a wider area around the plant than the perimeter established by Japan.
The announcement marked a new and ominous chapter in the five-day long effort by Japanese engineers to bring four side-by-side reactors under control after their cooling systems were knocked out by an earthquake and tsunami last Friday. It also suggested a serious split between Washington and Tokyo, after American officials concluded that the Japanese warnings were insufficient, and that, deliberately or not, they had understated the potential threat of what is taking place inside the nuclear facility.
If the American analysis is accurate and Japanese workers have been unable to keep the spent fuel at that inoperative reactor properly cooled — it needs to remain covered with water at all times — radiation levels could make it difficult not only to fix the problem at reactor No. 4, but to keep workers at the Daiichi complex from servicing any of the other problem reactors at the plant.
As for the French news, there’s an interview with the French Minister of Industry and Energy in which he says that France has categorized this crisis a 6 out of 7, whereas Japan has only categorized it a 4 out of 7. He also suggests that it appears Japan has lost control of the situation. Reuters has a translation of the salient part:
“Let’s not beat about the bush. They have visibly lost the essential of control (of the situation). That is our analysis, in any case, it’s not what they are saying,” Besson told BFM television.
“Right now we have indications at the site of radiation levels that … would be lethal within a fairly short period of time,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told the House Energy Committee Wednesday.
What is happening to the employees working the the crisis on the scene? I read that the control room is highly protected, but we’re not reading anything about the risk to those on the scene.
From Fukushima to Tokyo is around 150 miles (by driving) per Google maps.