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Japan Faces Possible Nuclear Meltdown Like Three Mile Island But Not Like Chernobyl Disaster


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There is a growing concern (since early morning local time) that Japan can face a nuclear meltdown. Officials are trying to ease the public's concerns about a radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant and have said that the explosion inside the plant didn't damage a reactor core, but rather just the building itself.

According to Reuters "The Japanese nuclear safety agency rated the damage at a nuclear power plant at Fukushima at a four on a scale of one to seven, which is not quite as bad as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, which registered a five."

However, they may have dodged the bullet according to The Guardian. Officals are said to be relieved after the situation at the Fukushima plant was avoided. For a few hours, Japan faced a bleak and unsettling prospect of a nuclear meltdown that could have spread radioactive waste over large parts of the country.

Other sources would disagree with that assessment. Japanese officials are adamant that the situation is under control and they insist the amount of radioactive elements has decreased since the explosion inside the plant. Feuters just reported that Japan authorities fear fuel rods may have melted, which could signal the beginning of a disaster much like Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. People living within 12 miles of the reactors have been evacuated and officials are telling anyone who lives within 15 miles of the reactors to stay inside.

At this point, it's a race against time. Plant operators have been unable to cool down the core of at least two reactors containing high amounts of radioactivity because of failed back-up diesel generators required for the emergency cooling. The power company and the Japanese military are flying in more than a dozen emergency generators to deal with this imminent disaster. In an act of desperation they are trying to flood the nuclear plant with seawater to cool the reactor down. Edwin Lyman, a nuclear physicist told CNN on "The News Room" that this is an act of desperation and will probably do little to stave off a nuclear meltdown.

Based upon the reports coming out you can't help but think about the Three Mile Island Disaster, which occurred in Pennsylvania back in 1979. The Three Mile Island accident began with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to escape. This resulted in the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history. In the end, the situation was brought under control and Three Mile Island remains in operation today - with one nuclear generating station in operation.

Some people fear this could turn into another Chernobyl disaster, but Japanese officials are much better equipped to handle this situation. The Chernobyl disaster was the result of a flawed reactor design and poorly trained employees according to The World Nuclear Association. The region around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has never recovered.

Japan may have a Three Mile Island situation on their hands, which is far less of a catastrophe than Chernobyl. It's almost a certainity they won't face that type of a disaster. Even if there is a full meltdown, some scientists don't see this coming anywhere close to the Chernobyl disaster.

With that said, Japan faces an uphill battle as they recover from Friday's massive 8.9 earthquake and tsunami. Japan's economy was already struggling before this disaster and they'll need the help of the world to pull them up.

Should there be a nuclear meltdown in Japan, this would not just have a major effect on Japan, but it would affect the global economy as well.

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com