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As night fell on Friday in Japan, workers and soldiers continued heroic efforts to douse the potential meltdown underway at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The covering darkness is not the only reason for confusion: vital systems monitors have lost power, making the status of critical elements—such as the integrity of the nuclear fuel rods in reactor No. 2 or of the steel vessel containing them—unavailable.

But what measurements are available are worrying. Electrical pump systems for cooling water remained inoperative as of 6 pm Eastern, although Reuters reported that Tokyo Electric Power Company succeeded in laying a giant extension cord to the stricken nuclear power plant early Saturday morning in Japan, which could be used to power up the site's pumps for cooling water. That might represent the best hope for cooling down the fuel rods in reactors No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 as well as the used rods stored in pools in No. 3 and No. 4.

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Category: Science