New challenges emerged at the Fukushima plant on Friday as Japan’s nuclear safety agency raised the problem’s severity to 5 from 4 on a 7-level scale and the UN watchdog, IAEA, called efforts to stabilise the plant “a race against time”.
In the last two days, officials have focused efforts on reactor 3, but steam was seen rising from reactor 2 on Friday.
There also appeared to be damage to the floor or sides of the spent fuel pool at reactor 4.
The new setbacks emerged as the first readings of US data-collection flights showed the worst contamination had not spread beyond the 30-km danger zone. But they also showed that water-bombing the reactors wasn’t working too well.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who met Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday, said he would send a team “within days” to monitor the radiation. Another IAEA official, Graham Andrew, said: “The situation remains very serious but there has been no significant worsening.”
As a last resort, Japanese engineers were considering burying the plant in sand and concrete, like in Chernobyl — which was a 7 on the international disaster scale.