The sound of a blast was heard Tuesday morning at the troubled No. 2 reactor of the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government said.
The incident occurred at 6:10 a.m. and is feared to have damaged the reactor’s pressure-suppression system, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said, citing a report from the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that “damage appears on the suppression pool” — the bottom part of the container, which contains water used to cool down the reactor and control air pressure inside.
“But we have not recorded any sudden jump in radiation indicators,” Edano said without elaborating.
If confirmed, it will be the first direct damage to the reactor since a massive earthquake and tsunami battered Japan’s northeast coast on Friday, knocking out nuclear plants in Fukushima, north of Tokyo.
Kyodo News is reporting higher radiation levels North of Tokyo after the blast.
Update 9:00 PM (by Yves). The latest report at the New York Times (filed in the last 20 minutes) is decidedly not cheery:
Industry executives in touch with their counterparts in Japan Monday night grew increasingly alarmed about the risks posed by the No. 2 reactor.
“They’re basically in a full-scale panic” among Japanese power industry managers, said a senior nuclear industry executive. The executive is not involved in managing the response to the reactors’ difficulties but has many contacts in Japan. “They’re in total disarray, they don’t know what to do.”