News / Asia

Japan Admits Time Running Out to Avert Possible Nuclear Catastrophe

An aerial view of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, March 17, 2011
An aerial view of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, March 17, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Japan's government is acknowledging time is running out to prevent a hazardous and significant spread of radiation into the atmosphere from the crippled Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. Of utmost concern is one of the facility's damaged reactors (number 3) where water levels are believed to have fallen dangerously low in a pool where spent fuel rods are kept.

Air, ground assault

Japan's military and police have launched an air and ground assault to pour water on two crippled nuclear reactor buildings which are emitting radiation.

A pair of Self Defense Forces helicopters on Thursday began carrying out air drops on the nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture. Officials at the plant said late Thursday they expect the government to make further efforts to cool the reactor with both helicopter drops and spraying.


Listen to Q&A with VOA's Steve Herman on spraying operation

The infrastructure for the reactors' cooling system was effectively destroyed by last Friday's tsunami. Explosions subsequently damaged several reactor buildings.

The risky air mission, which was aborted Wednesday because radiation levels were deemed too high, involves dropping 7.5 tons of water with each run to try to cool radioactive fuel rods. But live television video of the initial four air drops showed that much of the water appeared to be dispersed by winds.

Reactor 3 critical

The third reactor is considered the most critical. It uses mixed oxide fuel containing plutonium.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, who gave the go-ahead Thursday for the helicopters to carry out the mission, acknowledges time is running out.

Kitazwa says the military believes that the air drops will help cool the fuel rods. He also confirmed that water pumps, provided by the U.S. military, are on their way to commence on-site spraying of water.

Kitazwa also says Japanese special purpose fire trucks and riot police squad water cannons are to be utilized. This is being viewed as a last-ditch attempt to prevent some of the hundreds of spent fuel rods from going critical. That would lead to significant amounts of radiation spreading to a wider area.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, says it is replacing transmission lines to restore electricity to the nuclear plant as quickly as possible in order to provide an on-site source of energy to fuel a cooling system.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says every effort is being made to bring the situation under control.

Obama offers more help

The top government spokesman also says Prime Minister Naoto Kan and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke for 30 minutes about the crisis. He says Mr. Obama informed the Japanese leader the United States is prepared to send more nuclear experts here, as well as providing assistance for Japan's earthquake and tsunami reconstruction efforts.

Both governments say Tokyo and Washington will continue to closely cooperate. But there is a public split between the two governments on the severity of the crisis.

Some U.S. government officials have been saying the situation at the Fukushima facility is more severe than Japan has acknowledged.

Evacuations

The US State Department on Thursday announced chartered aircraft would be available in Tokyo for Americans who desire to leave the country. It is also permitting the voluntary departure of embassy staff family members from Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya.

Some European countries have also urged their citizens to depart the capital, 200 kilometers from the nuclear plant.  

The United States Embassy earlier in the day advised Americans within an 80-kilometer radius of the Fukushima nuclear facility to leave the area. Japan's evacuation zone extends only to 20 kilometers. About 200,000 people have left that zone. Those between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant have been urged by the Japanese government to stay indoors

William Ide's video report on severity of nuclear crisis


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs