The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company was reported to have undergone a latest fire at its reactor number 4 on Wednesday morning. This latest development occurs after the nuclear plant has already undergone 3 explosions in four days at its reactors number 1,3 and 2. The chain of catastrophic events at the plant located 170 miles north of Tokyo had already seen elevated levels of radiations that had prompted authorities to reduce emergency staff at the plant from 750 to 50 on Tuesday morning. In addition the government had ordered citizens living in a 19-miles radius to stay indoor as a protective measure against possible airborne radioactive material. This measure followed a previous evacuation of residents leaving within a 12 miles radius of the plant. The latest fire at reactor 4 is fueling speculation on the actual state of reactors 4,5 and 6, the three reactors that were not operating at the time of last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Spent fuel rods exert very high cooling requirements as they normally maintain characteristically elevated heat and radiation levels, even though in storage. Damages sustained by the plant’s cooling systems during Friday disaster are likely to increase risks of stored fuel meltdown at reactors 4,5 and 6.
On the recovery front , national authorities had put the number of fatalities at 3,373 with missing at 7,558 although these figures are likely to rise, following Friday magnitude 9 earthquake and follow up tsunami.
The Navy is taking additional precautionary measures to deal with both a relief effort and a potential nuclear crisis. At-risk families of service members living on 2 military bases south of Tokyo have been advised to stay indoor. The 7th fleet is also maneuvering three ships to Japan’s west coast in an effort to avoid the area in which radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the east coast are likely to appear. The Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan also announced that more service members had been issued potassium iodide anti-radiation pills on Tuesday after 29 food and aid delivery missions were conducted from the USS Ronald Reagan strike group formation of 8 ships. These were in addition to the previous 17 helicopter crews which had undergone decontamination after Sunday flights relief from the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to Sendai. The strike group part of 7th fleet is expected to receive further reinforcement on Thursday from a three-ship amphibious group that includes the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.