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Masao Yoshida, general manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, believed the worst-case scenario — the “China syndrome” — might be near and he braced for death during the late-night hours of March 14, three days after the crisis started.

Pressure was rising at an alarming rate inside reactor No. 2, keeping plant workers from injecting critical coolant water into the reactor’s core to prevent the fuel rods inside from melting down as power had failed following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

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