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Photo by Jack Stuef, in Tokyo. Really!A third explosion at the heavily damaged Fukushima nuclear power station 150 miles north of Tokyo has escalated the country’s nuclear crisis after Friday’s awful earthquake. Those living within 18 miles of the smoldering nuke plant have been told to stay indoors — radiation levels are now at the “immediate health risk” level and could get much worse. Four of the six reactors at the seaside nuclear facility are now damaged, and the latest explosion on Tuesday morning may well have begun a “partial meltdown.”

The death toll in Japan is likely in the tens of thousands already, with some 6,000 dead confirmed so far. And this nuclear situation — along with the lack of power and water and food and everything else for millions of people in the north of Japan — is not making things a lot better.

Here’s some soothing stuff from the LA Times:

“They do not have the situation under control,” said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former Energy Department deputy.

The most recent reports that a “suppression pool” at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor, designed to serve as a last line of defense against a meltdown, was breached could represent a major escalation of the crisis, said Victor Gilinsky, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner.

Uh, guess it’s time to order up some of those life-saving iOSAT Potassium Iodide tablets for yourself and your family. Oh wait, they’re all sold out, everywhere. In the extremely unlikely event of a radiation death cloud flying across the Pacific to our shores, it will take several days to hit the West Coast of Canada and America. So, why not take some acid?

(For what all this means, scientifically, Cosmic Log and Boing Boing have good, brief backgrounders in case you’re American and have no idea how nuclear power is even created.) [Photo by Jack Stuef]

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