Japan Yanks Workers at Crippled Nuke Plant
Work suspended, residents flee as radiation surges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 15, 2011 11:50 PM CDT
Updated Mar 16, 2011 12:05 AM CDT
Tokyo Electric Co. employees in charge of public relations use a photo of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex to explain the situation during a press conference today.   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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(Newser) – Japan suspended operations to keep its stricken Fukishima Dai-ichi nuclear plant from melting down yesterday after surging radiation made it too dangerous for employees to stay. Workers dousing the reactors in a frantic effort to cool them have been ordered to withdraw, a government minister said. "The workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," he said. "Because of the radiation risk we are on standby." Japan plans to ask the US military for assistance. The surge in radiation was apparently the result of a fire in the complex's Unit 4 reactor, according to officials with Japan's nuclear safety agency.

The blaze is thought to have damaged the reactor's suppression chamber, a water-filled pipe outside the nuclear core that is part of the emergency cooling system. Officials had originally planned to use helicopters and fire trucks to spray water in a desperate effort to prevent further radiation leaks and to cool down the reactors. "It's not so simple that everything will be resolved by pouring in water," the minister said. The Chinese have evacuated some 2,000 residents from the region and moved them to Tokyo to avoid the immediate radiation danger.