News / Asia

Fear of Potential Invisible Killer Near Japanese Nuclear Site

An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, run by Tokyo Electric Power, March 12, 2011
An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, run by Tokyo Electric Power, March 12, 2011

An eerie silence has descended over this northeastern Japanese city. Tens of thousands have evacuated their homes a day after one of the worst-ever recorded earthquakes and subsequent tsunami, which swallowed coastal villages.

The greatest fear here, right now, stems not from the continuing aftershocks and the ongoing tsunami warnings, but rather a silent and invisible potential killer.

One or more nuclear reactors in Fukushima may be close to, or have suffered a meltdown.  A reactor wall has apparently collapsed at one reactor, injuring four people there Saturday afternoon.

This is, after all, the country said to suffer a "nuclear allergy" from its experience, at the close of World War II, of having uranium and plutonium bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The trauma of nuclear defeat left a scar salved with the moral high ground of pacifism and Japan disavowing itself of any development of nuclear weaponry.

But when it has come to electrical power generation, Japan has taken a different path, embracing atomic power as a way to compensate for a paucity of natural resources needed to generate ample energy for its post-war economic recovery.

The nuclear energy industry helped propel Japan to becoming the world's second largest economy (it only recent slipped to third place, behind the United States and China).

Japan built more than 50 such power plants, despite concerns among some Japanese that nuclear reactors and earthquake fault lines were not a comfortable combination.

Now the sum of all those fears is a distinct reality. While residents evacuate, battalions of rescue workers, both domestic and foreign are heading for Fukushima.

This city, despite the ominous nuclear threat, is the staging ground for what will likely prove to be one of the largest-ever search and rescue efforts in human history.

Fukushima is the closest significant airport still open to the worst-hit areas.

The tsunami along the coast, 30 kilometers east, swallowed entire communities - many already severely damaged by Friday's magnitude 8.9 quake - in a few minutes. The devastation was recorded on video by military and media helicopter crews who hovered above the unbelievable scene, helpless to intervene.

More than 50 countries have already pledged aid to Japan. Most will fly into Fukushima and fan out towards the north and east for a search and recovery operation likely to go on for weeks.

Many of the bodies, washed out to sea, will never be found.  Some survivors will be severely traumatized, injured and hungry.  A lucky few are certain to be pried loose beneath collapsed buildings.  It is a drama we have viewed over the years in such diverse places as Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, China and, just weeks ago, New Zealand.

In the days ahead, we will bring you glimpses of this tragedy from on location. Usually, the reporter's eye is supposed to be unblinking and the prose without passion. But certainly, this time the eye will glisten with tears as we collectively mourn the lost ones, and then shed more tears as we share the happiness when some of the survivors are reunited with loved ones.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid