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

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs