Japan evacuates area around nuclear plant following earthquake

Tokyo, March 11, 2011 — Japanese authorities declared a state of nuclear emergency and ordered the evacuation of a residential area near a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, amid concerns over the cooling system of one of its reactors.

The evacuation order affects about 3,000 residents living within a 3-kilometer radius of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima nuclear facility, while those living within a 3- to 10-kilometer radius have been advised not to go outside.

Electrical systems that provide power to cool the reactor were knocked out in the earthquake, and a diesel-powered backup system also failed, leaving the utility short of the coolant necessary to keep the reactor at a safe temperature, according to a news reports.

No radiation had leaked from the affected plant, according to a government statement.

In a related development, Tohoku Electric Power Co. reported smoke emerging from a building housing a reactor at its Onagawa plant in Miyagi. The company said that there had been no radioactive leak and that it was checking the safety of the reactor.

The Japanese government said no radioactive leaks had been reported at any nuclear-power plants.

Four nuclear power plants nearest the quake's epicenter had been safely shut down, while 11 others that were affected by the temblor also had their shutdown systems triggered, according to a Kyodo report Friday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that there the declaration was made so that authorities could establish an emergency task force to deal with the situation.

National broadcaster NHK said it was the first time a nuclear-emergency evacuation order had been issued in Japan.

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