Slashdot posted a story linking a highly speculative piece in The Guardian saying that high levels of radiation might be a sign that molten fuel has leaked through the reactor vessel (not the containment vessel, as the Slashdot summary breathlessly announces). I have not seen any confirmation of this speculation, or indeed seen this speculation repeated outside Slashdot and a few other newspapers in the UK, and it is not confirmed by the most recent IAEA report.
Things are plenty bad at Fukushima, but (with the caveat that I am not even remotely a nuclear engineer) I see no solid evidence to suggest that there has been even a partial meltdown, much less that the core has melted through the reactor pressure vessel, much less that the containment vessel has been breached. Indeed this statement from the IAEA report would suggest a better cause for the radioactivity spike recently observed: “The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan suggests that higher activity in the water discovered in the Unit 2 turbine building is supposed to be caused by the water, which has been in contact with molten fuel rods for a time and directly released into the turbine building via some, as yet unidentified path.”
Japan suffered a real tragedy, with over 11,000 confirmed dead from the earthquake and tsunami, and Western journalists and bloggers seem unnaturally fixated on a serious but limited nuclear accident that hasn’t claimed any lives yet.
All six of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant appear to be under control, though there appears to be damage to the reactor cores of reactors 1-3. Those reactors have been given an International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) rating of 5, which would put it on par with Three Mile Island, but well below the 7 assigned to Chernobyl.
More dramatic footage of the tsunami coming in. There’s one building that the water goes up against, and then through, and then, in a matter of about 10 seconds since the wave hit, the building is gone.
Includes some of the above, and a lot more besides, off Japanese TV:
Before and After aerial footage:
Helicopter rescue footage:
The tsunami even caught the Japanese Air Force unaware, which a number of (I think) F-16s picked up and carried into buildings or soaked with mud:
Interesting video from 2010 explaining Japanese preparation for earthquakes and tsunamis:
Stratfor is reporting that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant “appears” to have melted down. I have not seen confirmation of this elsewhere. Even if true, it does not mean there has been a core breach, much less a containment breach. And the Christian Science Monitor is saying otherwise.