Japan Reactor Shield Damaged

Part of the container of a troubled nuclear reactor appears to be damaged, the Japanese government said today, a development that could indicate the possibility of serious radiation leaks.

Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano told reporters “damage appears on the suppression pool” – the bottom part of the container that contains water used to cool the reactor and control air pressure inside.

“But we have not recorded any sudden jump in radiation indicators,” Mr Edano said, without elaborating.

If confirmed, it will be the first direct damage to the reactor since a massive earthquake and tsunami battered Japan’s north-east coast on Friday, knocking out nuclear plants in Fukushima, north of Tokyo.

Japan has already asked the UN atomic watchdog to send a team of experts to help stave off a nuclear emergency following the massive quake and tsunami.

Two explosions have already rocked the Fukushima plant and now fuel rods at the plant’s No. 2 reactor are exposed and at risk of meltdown.

But as Japan struggles to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, which are feared to have killed more than 10,000 people, government officials have been playing down the nuclear concerns, insisting the situation is under control.