It is unprecedented: four atomic reactors in dire trouble at once, three threatening meltdown from overheating, and a fourth hit by a fire in its storage pond for radioactive spent fuel.
All day yesterday, dire reports continued to circulate about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, faced with disaster after Japan's tsunami knocked out its cooling systems. Some turned out to be false: for example, a rumour, disseminated by text message, that radiation from the plant had been spreading across Asia. Others were true: that radiation at about 20 times normal levels had been detected in Tokyo; that Chinese airlines had cancelled flights to the Japanese capital; that Austria had moved it embassy from Tokyo to Osaka; that a 24-hour general store in Tokyo's Roppongi district had sold out of radios, torches, candles and sleeping bags.
But perhaps the most alarming thing was that although Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister, once again appealed for calm, there are many – in Japan and beyond – who are no longer prepared to be reassured. More...