Photos: Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant in Koriyama, March 13, 2011. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirmed on Saturday there has been an explosion and radiation leakage at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan on record struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-meter (33-foot) high tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships, cars and farm buildings on fire. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
The videos above (one from Japanese TV, one from the Russian network RT) show a plume of smoke emerging from the damaged reactor at Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan on Saturday: an explosion blew the roof off of a building and destroyed the outer walls of a reactor. Officials have expanded the evacuation radius around the plant to a 12 mile radius, and are distributing iodine to populations nearby, to help offset possible radiation poisoning. Below, a shot from NHK TV of the damaged building (thanks, Yamara, via BB Flickr Pool).
Officials said late Saturday that leaks of radioactive material from the plant, which began before the explosion, were receding and that a major meltdown was not imminent. But severe problems at two nuclear plants close to the epicenter of the quake forced evacuations of tens of thousands of people from surrounding areas, hampering efforts to search for survivors and forcing Japan’s leadership to grapple with two major crises as the same time.
Early reports are that radiation levels receded after the explosion, and that a worse disaster may have been averted. Still, the incident is being described as the most significant nuclear disaster since Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, in global impact. The Fukushima disaster now has its own Wikipedia page.