Early this morning, an explosion at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan prompted fears of high radiation leakage and a possible core meltdown. Those fears have since abated, though the situation remains dangerous. The plant, which was damaged in yesterday's massive earthquake, has been a source continual concern as Japan attempts to stage recovery efforts in the area. From The New York Times:
Officials said late Saturday that leaks of radioactive material from the plant, which began before the explosion, were receding and that a major meltdown was not imminent. But severe problems at two nuclear plants close to the epicenter of the quake forced evacuations of tens of thousands of people from surrounding areas, hampering efforts to search for survivors and forcing Japan’s leadership to grapple with two major crises as the same time.
Reports on the incident say that the explosion was caused by a buildup of hydrogen inside the concrete enclosure around the reactor core. Officials are being quoted as saying that the core itself was not damaged, and that amount of radioactive material released in the explosion was minimal. Since the explosion, radiation readings have actually diminished. The explosion does give workers a chance to directly cool the core, and lessen the chance of a reactor meltdown.