JAPAN HAS DECLARED ITS FIRST TIME EVER NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMERGENCY.
THERE ARE 54 OPERATING REACTORS IN JAPAN. IN THE WAKE OF THE EARTHQUAKE THAT HIT JAPAN, HERE IS WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR SITE:
The electrical grid is down. The emergency diesel generators have been damaged. The multi-reactor Fukushima atomic power plant is now relying on battery power, which will only last around 8 hours. The Magnitude 8.9 quake hit 10 hours ago followed by two aftershocks of magnitudes 6.8 and 7.1 nine hours ago. It is unclear which of these damaged the reactor cooling system or when the battery power was turned on.
The danger is, the very thermally hot reactor cores at the plant must be continuously cooled for 24 to 48 hours. Without any electricity, the pumps won't be able to pump water through the hot reactor cores to cool them. Once electricity is lost, the irradiated nuclear fuel could begin to melt down i8n as little as an hour. If the containment systems fail, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur.
In addition to the reactor cores, the storage pool for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel is also at risk. The pool cooling water must be continuously circulated. Without circulation, the still thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel in the storage pools will begin to boil off the cooling water. Within a day or two, the pool's water could completely boil away. Without cooling water, the irradiated nuclear fuel could spontaneously combust in an exothermic reaction. Since the storage pools are not located within containment, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur. Up to 100% of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances. Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.