In Japan, Officials Knew Risk of Hydrogen Explosion
Plus: Estimated death toll passes 10K, and more from Japan
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2011 5:05 PM CDT
In this undated but recent photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors stand in line intact in Okumamachi in Fukushima Prefecture (state), Japan.   (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

(Newser) – When officials decided to vent radioactive steam from one of the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, they knew it could result in a hydrogen explosion. And, even though an explosion is exactly what happened, the decision was still the best option for avoiding a total meltdown, the AP reports in an interesting piece that traces the chain of events from Friday, when the earthquake damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, to this morning, when a total of six reactors were placed under a state of emergency. More from Japan:

  • The estimated death toll is more than 10,000 as of today, with the prime minister calling this disaster Japan’s worst crisis since World War II, the AP reports. The confirmed dead number more than 1,800.
  • Nuclear plant operators dumped sea water into two reactors in a last-ditch attempt to keep temperatures down, as officials warned a second explosion could occur, but would not pose a health threat.
  • Experts confirm to Reuters that “this is not a serious public health issue at the moment,” and that the winds will likely carry contamination to the Pacific, where it will not threaten any other nations.
  • The next crisis facing Japan could be an economic one, Reuters reports. Automakers, electronics firms, and oil refineries have been forced to suspend operations at some of their factories, and many companies are not sure how soon they will be back up and running. Even so, experts say the economy could bounce back in months.
Click for more on Japan.