RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
JON HAMILTON: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: First, where was this latest explosion? And also while you're at it, please, give us a sense of the geography of the plant.
HAMILTON: They need to keep water circulating through the core or it will overheat, and the systems that do that, it seems, have been failing. And I should say, that's still true, even though the nuclear reaction was stopped five days ago.
MONTAGNE: And what about that fire?
HAMILTON: So you put it in there and this fuel is still radioactive, it's still hot. And it can stay hot for years, so it needs to be kept underwater. And it appears what happens is the water in the cooling pond may have dropped or boiled away and this allowed the nuclear fuel to heat up and it heated up enough to cause a fire.
MONTAGNE: And just, I mean briefly, people keep worrying a meltdown. Where are we at at this moment in time?
HAMILTON: The thing is, we don't how much meltdown has occurred.
MONTAGNE: What about radiation? What has - has been released? How bad it is? Where is it going?
HAMILTON: Again, the information is all over the place. And I think to this point it's safe to say that most of the radiation releases have not been enough to cause any health problems. However, there has been one reading that is troubling. They talked about seeing 400 millisieverts per hour in one reading. And that's enough radiation to cause radiation sickness in just a few hours. So that's pretty worrisome. However, really it's worrisome for people who work at the plant. We're not talking about something where the general public would be endangered by that.
MONTAGNE: Still and all, it all sounds quite bad. Scary even. Could this - this has come up for the last several days. Could this be at any point possibly another Chernobyl?
HAMILTON: In Fukushima, you know, it's possible that the cores could melt, but - and in a worst case they might even melt through the containment structure and into the ground - but we're not talking about a huge explosion that would put stuff into the air.
MONTAGNE: So not a Chernobyl. It will end up being a Fukushima. Whatever that will end up being.
HAMILTON: Not good but not as bad as Chernobyl.
MONTAGNE: Jon, thanks very much.
HAMILTON: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: Japan's troubles are having an impact elsewhere. German leader Angela Merkel today announced that Germany's seven oldest nuclear power plants would be provisionally shut down.
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