Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

AP TOKYO – Japanese nuclear safety officials say they suspect that the reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may have breached. That raises the possibility of more severe radioactive contamination to the environment.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, said Friday that “something at the reactor may have been damaged” in Unit 3 of the six-unit plant.

He said “our data suggest the reactor retains certain containment functions,” an implication that the damage may have occurred in the reactor’s core, but that it was limited.

Officials say the damage could instead have happened in other equipment, including piping or the spent fuel pool.

The plant was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information

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