UPDATED TWICE: Pressure said rising again at nuclear reactor Unit 3, now stabilized after all...
By Brad Friedman on 3/19/2011, 8:34pm PT  

Choosing an interesting way to 'celebrate' the 8th anniversary of the launching of Tomahawk cruise missiles into Iraq kicking off our invasion there on March 19th, 2003, the U.S. Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama approved the launching of Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya on the anniversary today, as a five-nation coalition began to carry out a U.N.-approved No Fly Zone mandate over yet another oil rich Middle Eastern nation.

In response, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), General Electric, The Shaw Group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the rest of the nuclear energy lobby sent a thank you note to Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi, as the world media quickly turned their attention en masse to the new military action in the Middle East and away from the still-pending nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.

In related sarcastic and fake news, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-Koch) tore off all of his clothes and danced naked with glee in celebration, by himself, in the middle of the capital rotunda in Madison. No media were there to capture the moment.

Meanwhile, in news that is neither sarcastic nor fake, but seemingly impossible upon everything else, a giant 100-mile oil slick has been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana near the site of last year's BP deepwater oil drilling disaster. And yet with all of that, CNN has still not announced plans to scale back the 150 staff contingent they are set to deploy to cover next month's Royal Wedding in the UK.

In still more, let's call it irony, over a 100 demonstrators, including "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were arrested at the White House Saturday, protesting all the wars we were in prior to today, as well as against the reportedly deplorable conditions of detainment for 23-year old Army Private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified war documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Many of the same protesters were arrested in a similar protest at the White House in December, also for failing to obey orders as they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence, though few media bothered to cover that demonstration either. Another rally is set for tomorrow in support of Manning, also sure to be ignored, at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia where he has been held in solitary confinement, reportedly, 23 out of 24 hours of each day for the last nine months.

At Fukushima today, only a bit more noticed, McClatchy reports that the spent fuel rod pool at reactor No. 3 is said to be "stabilized," with radiation levels dropping there after 13 hours of sea water was sprayed onto it with water cannon trucks [* See UPDATES below for more on Unit 3 issues.]; the Unit 4 fuel pool --- where, as we reported last night a "renewed nuclear chain reaction [was] feared" --- may in fact be cracked and leaking water, but with Unit 3 "stabilized" for now, fire fighters have turned the water cannon trucks onto that unit in hopes of cooling it down as well; and late last night, power was restored to Units 5 & 6, with pumps said to be working and the cooling ponds in both reactors cooling from their previously reported temperatures around 65C, back towards the desired temp of 25C. The readings there today were 37C and 41C respectively, in what can certainly be considered a bit of good news in a story desperate for some...

TEPCO officials hope that, on Sunday, power might be re-connected at the damaged Units 1 & 2, though it remains to be seeing if cooling equipment still works in those reactors following earthquake, tsunami, and hydrogen explosions.

[UPDATE: Moments after publishing this article, Voice of America's Steve Harman, on the ground in Japan, tweets that there are "renewed concerns" at Unit 3, with "pressure rising" and "quick measures to try to reduce it" being taken, according to Japan's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). | MORE: AP now reporting NISA official "Hidehiko Nishiyama said Sunday that efforts to put water in the Unit 3 reactor...might not have been working. He says the plant operator will release some radioactive gas from the reactor into the environment and that this may slow work on restoring power and cooling systems to the unit. Nishiyama says that means radiation levels around the plant will rise again."]

[UPDATE 3/20 2:30pm PT: Good news. Reactor 3 pressure stabilized again, and it was determined that venting of radioactive steam would not be necessary after all, according to TEPCO officials. Also, from Al Jazeera's coverage of same news, an official at Japan's health ministry says, about their preparedness for this nuclear crisis --- in a country which is more prepared than any for earthquakes and related disasters: "It is true that we had not foreseen a disaster of these proportions. We had not practised or trained for something this bad. We must admit that we were not fully prepared." Keep that in mind the next time U.S. officials arguing for nuclear power tell you how prepared we are to deal with any mishaps and natural disasters.]

Also last night, "small amounts" of radiation contamination were reported to have been found in milk and spinach produced near the crippled plant, and then "traces of radioactive iodine" were detected in tap water in Tokyo, 180 miles to the south, and elsewhere in the country.

All the while, the largest full moon in 18 years smiled down, perhaps even laughing, on a planet in chaos...

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