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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.