3:05 - Reuters reports that workers have "connected the external transmission line with the stricken Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan and confirmed that electricity can be supplied." Workers were hoping to connect the power cables to, as Nikkei noted, "inject water more efficiently into the facility's crippled reactors" and potentially alleviate the crisis.
12:35 - "The situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants remains very serious but there has been no significant worsening since our last briefing" on Thursday, said Graham Andrew, a senior IAEA official to Reuters.
11:36 - "If they can get those electric pumps on and they can start pushing that water successfully up the core, quite slowly so you don't cause any brittle failure, they should be able to get it under control in the next couple of days," said a professor of Nuclear safety to Reuters.
10:17 - President Obama emphasized this in his address yesterday, but it's worth noting that the Associated Press is citing a source saying that even though radiation particles have reached Southern California, they are "about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening." That sentiment hasn't stopped the brisk sales of potassium iodide sales, however.
10:00 - "No expansion of the 12.4-mile (20-kilometer) evacuation zone around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is necessary, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy head of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said at a briefing Friday," reports CNN. In contast, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission previously stated that "for a comparable situation in the United States we would recommend an evacuation for a much larger radius than is currently being provided in Japan."
9:04 - Earlier in the week there were 50 workers still at the plant out of the reportedly 1,400 stationed at Fukushima. The number then doubled to 100, and now Reuters reports there are "about 300 workers are toiling in Tokyo Electric Power's earthquake-smashed plant, wearing masks, goggles and protective suits whose seams are sealed off with duct tape to prevent radioactive particles from creeping in."
8:55 - "With the water-spraying operations, we are fighting a fire we cannot see," said Hideohiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to Reuters. "That fire is not spreading, but we cannot say yet that it is under control."
8:36 - From Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's address: He said that the evolving situation at the plant remains "very grave" and the nation experienced a "great deal of confusion" in the delivery of relief supplies after the earthquake, according to CNN.
Original Post (8:19 am EST)
Yesterday, Japanese officials doused reactor No. 3 in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant with water cannons in an effort to cool the exposed nuclear fuel. Military helicopters performed water drops and workers installed cables from a TEPCO power grid to the plant order to "inject water more efficiently into the facility's crippled reactors." As of the latest Reuters report (7:40 am EST), workers are still trying to connect the power cables to the two reactors, hopefully by Saturday. The Wall Street Journal reports that a continuing problem with connecting the cables has been the obvious "danger of contact with water while handling power equipment."
Officials are at least contemplating a new option: encasing the entire plant in layers of cement as a way to seal off radioactive leakages in same way as the Russians did with Chernobyl in 1986. According to Reuters, a TEPCO spokesperson said, "it is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first." That option arrives as The Los Angeles Times reports that a spent fuel pool "has a breach in the wall or floor, a situation that creates a major obstacle to refilling the pool with cooling water."
In a bit of semi-encouraging news, the American drone surveillance flights that were scheduled to fly over the crippled plant have made this assessment, according to The New York Times: "the worst contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range of highest concern established by Japanese authorities," their readings said. Earlier in the week, Japanese officials established a 20 km evacuation zone around the plant and insisted that those within 30 km stay indoors. In contrast, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commission, said that, "for a comparable situation in the United States we would recommend an evacuation for a much larger radius than is currently being provided in Japan." (via The Wall Street Journal)
On Friday, according to the Times, Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the incident level from a 4 to 5 on a 7 point scale. "It was not immediately clear why the action had been taken," the Times notes. "The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 was rated 5 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was rated 7." Most news organizations have reported that the initial containment situation will take several weeks or longer to resolve.
This footage from a TEPCO helicopter flying over the nuclear plant arrived on Thursday, but it provides a useful visual for the developing situation: