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This is an extended comment and current news item, intended to supplement the various diaries about the Fukushima atomic power plants in Japan.

It's a partial translation of the front page article from the weekend edition of the left-alternative German daily die Tageszeitung — or "Taz" for short.

Text of my attempt at translation below the fold.

Terminology:
• "APP" = atomic power plant, German abbreviation Akw for Atomkraftwerk
• "Block" refers to a reactor within a larger complex.

Disaster at Japan's atomic power plants Fukushima I & II

Cooling inoperative in six reactors

The containment vessel in Block 1 of the Fukushima APP (atomic power plant) is being cooled with seawater as a stopgap measure. Whether a core meltdown occurred is unclear. The cooling has now failed in Block 3 as well — in what is now the sixth reactor to be affected.

Tokyo / Berlin (Taz, DPA, DAPD, AFP, Reuters)
(last update Sun. 1:20 a.m. UTC/GMT)
[i.e. updated as of Sat. 8:20 p.m. EST, before EDT change]

The situation has become more acute in still another reactor in the Fukushima I APP [I, #1, number one = daiichi], according to the latest report. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the plant's owner, stated that on Sunday morning local time all technical functions that keep the cooling water at the required level had failed in Reactor 3.

"At 5:30 a.m. water ceased being supplied, and the internal pressure is gradually rising," said the spokesman, adding that Tepco has notified the government. Taking the two APP sites Fukushima I and II together, the number of reactors where the cooling has failed now appears to be six.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano explained Sunday that here too steam carrying some radioactivity would be released from the reactor in order to reduce pressure. Apparently that did indeed happen a short time later.

The most dangerous aspect, however, remains the situation in the Fukushima I APP's Block 1. The reactor is currently being cooled with seawater to stave off the threat of meltdown. On Saturday in Tokyo, government spokesman Edano had said that the steel containment vessel was still intact and undamaged despite the explosion in the enclosing building.

. . .

A meltdown — or then again, not?

Because radioactive iodine and cesium have been detected in the vicinity of the plant, Japan's Atomic Safety Agency is proceeding on the assumption that the fuel rods have partially melted: a partial meltdown, in other words. The Japanese Kyodo news agency had reported as much on Saturday. Yet the Japanese government's official statements make no mention of this.

Germany's environment minister Norbert Röttgen said Saturday evening on German TV 1 (ARD) that there were "conflicting reports" regarding whether a meltdown had occurred. Nonetheless there were strong indications of a meltdown, he said, particularly the measurements showing radioactive cesium and iodine.

The former boss of Germany's atomic regulatory body, Wolfgang Renneberg, had already voiced his view on Saturday afternoon that he no longer saw any chance of bringing the Fukushima I plant under control. "This is the classic scenario that defines the so-called 'beyond-worst-case disaster' [Super-GAU]," he said. As far as he could judge, it was no longer possible to keep the reactor's cooling system running; the batteries powering the system would already have been exhausted by Saturday morning.

. . .

Cooling problems in a second power plant

The Fukushima Daiichi APP, also called Fukushima I, consists of two building complexes, one housing four reactors and the other housing two. The complexes are located right on the coast, where they are directly vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunami. They are around 270 kilometers [168 miles] northeast of Tokyo. All six reactors [Blöcke or "blocks"] are already quite old, having first come online in the 1970s. Two further reactors are planned. Three of the six existing reactors were completely shut down for maintenance at the time of quake. On Friday problems arose with the cooling for two of the reactors. Sunday morning (local time) the third reactor was similarly affected.

Between Friday evening and Saturday morning, serious problems also arose 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] farther south, in the Fukushima Daini APP, also known as Fukushima II [II, #2, number two = daini], which houses four reactors. On Saturday morning 8 a.m. local time the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that here too, the cooling system had stopped working for three of the four reactors.

A nuclear emergency was declared for this atomic power complex as well. Plant owner Tepco has since reported that on Saturday (local time) throughout the day contaminated steam was released from all four of Fukushima II's reactors, as a safety measure to reduce pressure in the containment vessels.

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