An explosion has wracked the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant in Japan. Nuclear officials have detected radioactive cesium and iodine at the site and fear that the uranium fuel rods have begun melting. Notes the BBC:

Air and steam, with some level of radioactivity, has been released from several of the reactors at both plants in an effort to relieve the huge amount of pressure building up inside. [...] Analysts say a meltdown would not necessarily lead to a major disaster because light-water reactors would not explode even if they overheated.

But Walt Patterson, of the London research institute Chatham House, said "this is starting to look a lot like Chernobyl".

He said it was too early to tell if the explosion's aftermath would result in the same extreme level of radioactive contamination that occurred at Chernobyl.

As Japan's nuclear agencies assess the damage, the evacuation range around the reactor has been expanded from 10 kilometers to 20 kilometers. And in other news, the quake caused the Earth's rotation to speed up by 1.6 microseconds.

UPDATE: A government spokesman has said that radiation levels and pressure in the reactor have since decreased and that the nuclear reactor was not damaged.

[Footage via Russia Today]