Japan Nuclear Reactor: 3 Cores in Danger (Infographic)
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: Emergency Escalates
The core meltdown risk has escalated at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
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Three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are now in danger of overheating. Tepco, which manages Fukushima Daiichi, has acknowledged that those three reactors may have suffered at least partial meltdowns.
Japan has asked for international help in managing the disaster at the plant. Meanwhile, Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that the likelihood of a "second Chernobyl" is unlikely, since Fukushima was shut down. Also, Fukushima Daiichi keeps its reactors in reactor vessels, which Chernobyl did not. Also, the Chernobyl meltdown (involving a graphite core, and not a boiled-water reactor core) was the result of design failures and operator errors.
These reassurances have not calmed the panic that is growing in Japan, however. Even if a Chernobyl-type failure isn't possible, further failure at Fukushima Daiichi could have an extremely harmful result on the surrounding area. That's one area in which Fukushima is like Chernobyl: government officials telling the public that everything is okay while behaving as though everything is far from okay.
Below is a diagram of the boiled-water reactor (BWR) , the type of nuclear reactor that powers Fukushima Daiichi.