UPDATE: Partial meltdown may have occurred at Japanese nuclear - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE 2 : Partial meltdown may have occurred at Japanese nuclear plant

Posted: Updated:

By Megan Boatwright,

Channel 3 Eyewitness News Reporter

SODDY-DAISY, TN. (WRCB) -- Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake is being called Japan's largest in history.  Tonight, 1,800 people are are confirmed dead and more than 1,400 are still missing.

The disasters have caused a string of problems at three nuclear complexes, including a possible reactor meltdown.

Our region is no stranger to nuclear plants and after the devastation in Japan many in our area are taking notice.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has half-a-dozen nuclear reactors feeding power to many parts of the country.

Two are located in Soddy-Daisy, one in Spring City, Tennessee. Three other units are in Decatur, Alabama (near Huntsville, AL).

Channel 3 spent the day talking to neighbors within a two miles radius of Soddy-Daisy's Sequoyah Plant who say what is happening in Japan isn't far from their minds.

"I think it's tragic what has happened over there," says Linda Smith who lives within a two miles radius of the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. 

World's away from Fukushima, the Sequoyah Plant sits peaceful.  Still possible partial Japanese nuclear meltdown is enough to raise questions.

"When we moved here, of course, we knew the nuclear plant was close," says Smith's neighbor, Caroline McMahen. 

McMahen and Smith live on Hixson Pike near Sequoyah Access Rd.  McMahen says the potential dangers of living so close to the plant is something she considered before moving in eight years. 

"You think about it," she says.  Saturday TVA issued a public statement saying they are monitoring the nuclear situation in Japan in order to watch and learn.  Still, comparing what's happened at Fukushima to the natural disaster threats we face in the Tennessee Valley is like comparing apples to oranges.

"That plant experienced an 8.9-9.0 earthquake which is higher than anything that's ever been recorded in Japanese history," says Ray Golden, TVA spokesperson.  "It simply would not be the case here, we don't have those types of faults." 

Nuclear power plants are designed and operated to withstand man-made and natural disasters.  In our region tornadoes are high on the list of threats.

"The critical buildings such as the diesel generator and the building that houses the reactor are in multiple thick concrete and steal reinforced buildings," Golden says. 

Every year Sequoyah provides a calendar, with evacuation routes and other emergency procedures to those who live nearby.

"I feel safe with the security measures they have in place, and the evacuation routes they have," says Smith.  "We are aware of those routes." 

Her neighbor says she also feels confident in the emergency plans Sequoyah has already created, and constantly worrying about what could be is a waste of time.

"We have a plan of what we would do if we were told to leave," says McMahen.  "Other than that, you just can't sit here and shiver and shake in case."

According to TVA they're plants have a number of back-up safety systems to keep reactors cool. The Sequoyah Plant conducts practice safety drills the first Wednesday of every month.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also monitoring the disaster in Japan.

Officials insist U.S plants are safe.  They are scheduled for a hearing in front of the house energy committee on Wednesday.


KORIYAMA, Japan (AP) - More than 180,000 people have been evacuated from the area around a Japanese nuclear plant where a partial meltdown may have occurred.

Officials are offering limited and sometimes conflicting information.

One official says the core in one reactor has partially melted, despite frantic efforts to keep it cool.

Authorities at the Fukushima plant have resorted to using sea water to cool two reactors in an attempt to prevent meltdowns.

Several reactors are in danger of overheating after Friday's earthquake knocked out power.

The U.N. nuclear agency says authorities have declared a state of emergency at a second plant.

It says higher-than-permitted levels of radioactivity have been measured at the Onagawa power plant and the source is being investigated.

All three reactors at the plant are said to be under control.

Meanwhile, a Japanese utility report that one of two pumps in the cooling system at a third nuclear plant has failed.

Japan Atomic Power says the reactor is operating normally on the one pump, and there's no risk of a radiation leak.

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