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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid