Another fire has broken out at Fukushima Daiichi, this time in the unit 4 reactor.  Tokyo Electric Power Company confirmed flames were seen coming out of the building at 5.45am Japan Time

Hajimi Motujuku said the blaze erupted in the outer housing of the reactor’s containment vessel. Firefighters are trying to extinguish the flames.  Japan’s nuclear safety agency also confirmed the fire. The Disaster Taskforce headquarters is trying to establish its cause, NHK World reported.

Unit 4 was shut down for a routine, planned maintenance outage in November of last year and all fuel was transferred to the spent fuel pool following the earthquake.  The blaze is on the fourth floor on the north-west of the building, in the same area as Tuesday’s fire, which burned for two hours.  Yesterday a fire broke out at 9.30am (12.20pm NZT) in the reactor’s fuel storage pond – an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool.

That led to a sharp rise in radiation levels at the plant – at 10.22am (2.22pm NZT) a radioactivity monitoring post near the unit 3 reactor showed 400 millisieverts per hour, 400 times the amount an ordinary person is exposed to in a year, the Japan Times reported.

‘What the hell is going on?’

Earlier a French nuclear official labelled the Japanese nuclear crisis at a level just below Chernobyl, as the Japanese Prime Minister appeared to be losing faith in his nuclear plant operators Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Radiation levels at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant spiked late yesterday before retreating slightly overnight, after a fire erupted at the plant’s number four reactor.

Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France’s nuclear safety authority, refused to call the situation a “nuclear catastrophe” but said the situation was far more severe than the level 4 incident classification given by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  “It’s clear we are at Level 6, that’s to say we’re at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl,” Lacoste said.

His remarks came as Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Prime Minister Naoto Kan was angry at not being told of a blast at Fukushima Daiichi’s number 2 reactor yesterday.

“The TV reported an explosion, but nothing was said to the prime minister’s office for more than an hour,” Kan was reported to have said. “What the hell is going on?”

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, also said he wanted more timely and detailed information from Japan – his first hint at frustration with the pace of updates from authorities in his home country.

“The problem is very complicated, we do not have all the details of the information so what we can do is limited,” Amano told a news conference overnight. “I am trying to further improve the communication.”

Amano said he still believed the situation was different from that of the Chernobyl disaster, even though recent events “are worrying” and around 200,000 people had been evacuated from around the affected areas.

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