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Japan's Nuclear Crisis Worsens

10:46 AM, Mar 25, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The situation with the Japanese nuclear reactors, which were badly damaged as a result of the devastating 9.0 earthquake earlier this month, seems to be getting worse. The New York Times reports:

Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control.

The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.

The United States has recommended that its citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the plant.

It still is not clear why officials from the U.S. and Japan disagree on the safest distance from the affected nuclear reactors. 

CNN reports that there's more evidence that radiation levels near the reactors are abnormally high:

Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation.
Contaminated water likely seeped through the containment vessel protecting from the reactor's core, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Japan nuclear and industrial safety agency.
Three men working inside the No. 3 reactor stepped into water this week that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for that locale, Nishiyama said. That water likely indicates "some sort of leakage" from the reactor core, signaling a possible break of the containment vessel that houses the core.

And the Times also reports this sad news:

the official death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami had passed 10,000, with nearly 17,500 others listed as missing.

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