IWAKI, Japan AP (Mar 12, 10:42 PM EST) — A partial meltdown was likely under way at a second nuclear reactor, a top Japanese official said Sunday, as authorities frantically tried to prevent a similar threat from nearby unit following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. Some 170,000 people have been ordered to evacuate the area covering a radius of 12 miles (20 kilometers) around the plant in Fukushima near Iwaki.

There are 55 nuclear reactors inside Japan. Reuters reports no repeat of Chernobyl disaster in Japan.

However, under a heading of “red alert,” Stratfor is reporting a nuclear meltdown.

At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel ““ and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems.

We simply do not know the full story yet, because it’s still playing out.

I was living in New York City when the Three Mile Island catastrophe occurred. It was harrowing to hear the news reports, which resulted in demonstrations and a public outcry. It’s a good time to remember it now.

Pres. Clinton said that he remains skeptical about nuclear power (at the same time making inappropriate and wrong statements about oil drilling). Plants are expensive to build and also take a long time. Clinton didn’t address the saftey issue, which we’re seeing play out in Japan.

From Tokyo, via the New York Times:

An explosion at a crippled nuclear power plant in northern Japan on Saturday blew the roof off one building and caused a radiation leak of unspecified proportions, escalating the emergency confronting Japan’s government a day after an earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of the country’s northeastern coast.

Japanese television showed a cloud of white-gray smoke from the explosion billowing up from a stricken reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Saturday afternoon, and officials said leaks of radiation from the plant prompted them to expand the evacuation area around the facility to a 12-mile radius.

We still don’t have a solution for nuclear waste either. The Right doesn’t care, with Pres. Obama being too nonchalant about nuclear energy and a friend to that industry for some time. Nevadans came very close to having to live with the unknowns of Yucca Mountain, because ignoramuses in Congress wanted a dumping site. That many were content to have trucks filled with contaminated waste drive through poorer areas to get it to Nevada revealed the bankruptcy of the safety plan, with Yucca itself a disaster waiting to happen, which thankfully didn’t.

The BBC is also reporting a nuclear leak.

There are many aspects to making nuclear power safe, but there is also the argument that in the 21st century renewable energy and environmental sound energy policy is a better way to go, because a nuclear disaster is something from which there is no full recovery.

Graphic from the BBC.

UPDATE (11:25 EST): A site called World Nuclear News has some interesting details what’s happened with Japan’s nuclear facilities that were damaged in the earthquake.

Originally posted at 12 pm EST.