The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook northern Japan last week and has been estimated to be the cause of more than 10,000 deaths has wreaked havoc throughout the country. It has also put three units of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in perilous positions.
On Saturday, Unit 1 exploded and destroyed much of the outer building. Four workers were injured and nearby villages were evacuated to avoid radiation exposure. This Monday, Unit 3 exploded as well, in a blast that was so violent that it could be felt 25 miles away, according to The Associated Press.
The operator of the building said that the radiation levels were still within the legal limit. The inner core is still intact, although the outer shell has been almost reduced to rubble.
Unit 2 of the plant poses an additional threat, as the fuel rods are now fully exposed due to the quake's damage. The damage to the reactors has prompted 180,000 people to flee their homes, but up to 160 may have been exposed to some radiation, the news source reports.
Some have speculated that a full meltdown is possible, but very unlikely due to new and innovative measures.
"The likelihood there will be a huge fire like at Chernobyl or a major environmental release like at Chernobyl, I think that's basically impossible," James F. Stubbins, a nuclear energy professor at the University of Illinois, told the news provider.
The disaster has sparked a new debate among advocates and opponents of nuclear plants, which have been a major focus of many countries' energy policies in recent years. Officials from the United States, China and India have all begun to review the plans for domestic reactors, according to Bloomberg.
One poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC has found that most Americans favor cutting subsidies for new nuclear power plants over slashing education, Medicare or Social Security.