Japan’s top governmental spokesman told the media Sunday (late Saturday in the U.S.) that radiation at a besieged nuclear plant briefly rose above the legal limit and that a “partial meltdown” of one reactor may be underway.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that the meltdown was likely underway at a second reactor affected by Friday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Three nuclear reactors are now in danger of meltdown, creating a potential ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions. It appears that redundant cooling and power systems have failed, particularly with the influx of water during the tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini, the two heavily damaged nuclear power complexes took a desperate measures in one reactor, pouring seawater and boric acid directly into the core, which, even if successful, would render the reactor useless.

Some 200,000 residents near the nuclear complexes are being evacuated beyond a 12.5-mile radius around the plants. Government officials are also distributing iodine pills to civilians, a step that is seen as a sign of increased danger and public health exposure.

The U.S. government and American companies told media outlets they have offered assistance to Japan, but that the country has not requested any help.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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