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Explosion Rocks 2nd Nuclear Reactor in Japan
Date:3/14/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- An explosion Monday rocked the second of three reactors at earthquake-ravaged Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, but officials insisted that radiation levels near the facility were safe, according to news reports.

Authorities had been scrambling to cool the reactor with seawater after Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami knocked out water systems and backup generators used to regulate temperatures inside the reactor. A similar explosion at a second reactor at the complex occurred on Saturday. The explosions prompted an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, the Associated Press reported.

The plant's operators are being forced to periodically release radioactive steam into the atmosphere as part of the make-shift emergency cooling process that could last up to a year or more. That's because the operators must constantly flood the reactors with seawater, then release the resulting radioactive steam, according to experts familiar with the design of the nuclear complex, about 170 miles northeast of Toyko, The New York Times reported.

Soon after Monday's explosion, the owner of the plant, Tokyo Electric, warned it had lost the ability to cool the third reactor at the site. Workers were once again preparing to flood the reactor with seawater, which could lead to an explosion there as well, the AP reported.

Following Monday's explosion, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said the containment vessel holding radioactive nuclear rods at the reactor was intact, allaying some fears of health threats to the public. Television coverage of the building housing the reactor appeared to show damage similar to Saturday's blast at another reactor at the site, with outer walls blown off, leaving only a skeletal frame, the AP said.

Workers are desperately trying to avoid a complete
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