Has Japan lost the race to save its Fukushima nuclear reactor? Highly radioactive water is now being detected in the ocean near the reactor because the radioactive core seems to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and onto the concrete floor below–the same sort of thing that happened at Chernobyl.
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T.S. Eliot’s poem "The Hollow Men" says, "This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper." The Japanese nuclear plant meltdowns may end the same way. How will the affected plants finally be closed? A look at what happened at Chernobyl can give us a clue: Several times a month, especially after it rains in that part of the Ukraine, the water that has seeped through the cracks in the reactor is removed so that radiated water does not escape into the atmosphere. The area endangered by the Chernobyl reactor is 15,000 square miles–about the size of Switzerland–and the danger will last for over 300 more years, even though the meltdown occurred 25 years ago.
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We recently wrote that it’s not yet time to take iodine, and that’s probably still true. While a plume of radiation IS heading towards the West Coast, nuclear experts say it will become diluted along the way and will cause only very minor health problems in the US. Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster reached the West Coast in 10 days, but at that point, the radiation contained in the cloud was a tiny amount.
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The spent fuel rods that have been exposed to the air at reactor 4 at the Fukushima power plant have begun emitting "extremely high" levels of radiation according to US officials. This means that they have almost certainly gone critical.

A Tokyo Electric Power representative has said that "the possibility of recriticality is not zero" because of an unexpected fall in water levels in the pool storing the rods. Because the material is now apparently critical, it could explode. If so, this would be the third nuclear explosion on Japanese soil, after the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.
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