At least 750 workers were evacuated on Tuesday morning after a separate explosion ruptured the inner containment building at Reactor No. 2 at the Daiichi plant, which was crippled by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. The explosion released a surge of radiation 800 times more intense than the recommended hourly exposure limit in Japan.
But 50 workers stayed behind, a crew no larger than would be stationed at the plant on a quiet spring day. Taking shelter when possible in the reactor’s control room, which is heavily shielded from radiation, they struggled through the morning and afternoon to keep hundreds of gallons of seawater a minute flowing through temporary fire pumps into the three stricken reactors, Nos. 1, 2 and 3, where overheated fuel rods continued to boil away the water at a brisk pace.