Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, has ordered energy rationing for up to three hours a day and declared a nuclear emergency following the earthquake.

Over the weekend two explosions at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO’s) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station have raised concerns of radioactive contamination.

The explosions followed damage to the reactors caused by the joint effects of a massive earthquake and then a devastating flood which tore across much of the country.

Nuclear authorities are currently pouring sea water into the reactors, which will damage them in the long term, but could prevent further explosions.

However, while around 20 workers have been injured in the two explosions, the most recent of which was last night, so far the radiation appears to be contained.

The plants number one reactor blew up at the at the weekend, with the third reactor also exploding last night when its cooling system failed.

There are also reports that the second reactor cooling system has failed, which is likely to cause it to explode as well.

The Government initially set up and evacuated a 10 mile area around the plant, but was forced to extend that to 20 miles yesterday.

The country’s prime minister has appealed for international help and warned residents living near the nuclear sites to stay indoors.

Mr Kan: “At present, no impacts from radioactive materials upon the area outside of the facilities have been confirmed.

“Persons affected are asked not to begin evacuation hurriedly but rather to be on standby.”

British secretary of state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne, said: “The incident at Fukushima is clearly a very serious matter. It is much too early to say what the impact and implications are.

“We will be working closely with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and Japan to carefully establish what lessons can be learned.

“If Japan needs any assistance in terms of nuclear physicists and expertise from the United Kingdom, we would be very willing to help.”

Luke Walsh

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