Nuclear Crisis: Japan Struggles To Fend Off Disaster At Damaged Power Plant

1||March 17, 2011: The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan last week has spawned a second crisis, as the nation now struggles to prevent the leakage of radiation from a quake-damaged nuclear plant.

Low levels of radiation have been detected near the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, prompting the government to begin checking residents in nearby areas for signs of exposure. ||n39/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

2||This picture, taken in 2008, shows what the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant looked like before the earthquake struck. ||KYODO/Xinhua/Newscom&&

3||The earthquake knocked the cooling system at the plant — pictured from an aerial view here — offline. || DigitalGlobe&&

4||With the cooling system down, and with no way to vent the mounting pressure inside the reactors, two hydrogen explosions rocked the plant, the first on Saturday, and another on Monday. The explosions damaged the containment structures around Reactor No. 1 and Reactor No. 3., circled here in red. ||DigitalGlobe&&

5||Then on Tuesday, two more explosions shook the plant, one of which destroyed the containment structure around Reactor No. 4. You can see a close-up video of the damage here. ||DigitalGlobe&&

6||Japan has raced to cool the fuel rods at the plant to prevent a nuclear meltdown, using helicopters to spray water on the plant. ||nhk/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom&&

7||With fears growing about the potential spread of radiation, people have begun panic-buying on some areas. Food racks at a store in Tokyo were practically picked clean. ||n39/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

8||Concerns about irradiated food even spread to China. Policemen in China’s Anhui province corralled a crowd outside a salt company on Thursday. ||YI FAN/FEATURECHINA/Newscom&&

9||Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed the nation on Tuesday, urging people to evacuate areas near the plant. ||Kyodo/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom&&

10||In an unprecedented event, Emperor Akihito gave a live televised address to the nation, seeking to allay growing concerns about the scope of the nuclear crisis. ||SIPA/SIPA/Newscom&&

11||People in protective gear checked residents in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture for radiation exposure on Tuesday. ||AFLO/Newscom&&

12||||n39/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

13||Medical personnel have also checked radiation levels in other areas, including Nihon-Matsu, Fukushima prefecture, which is about 40 miles from the damaged plant. ||n39/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

14||The United States has sent radiological gear and cases of bottled water, among other supplies, to aid in the Japanese relief effort. || USMC/AFLO/Newscom&&