News / Asia

IAEA Chief Heads to Japan to Assess Nuclear Crisis

Medical staff use a Geiger counter to screen a woman for possible radiation exposure after she was evacuated from an area within 20 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, at a public welfare center in Hitachi City, Ibaraki, March 16, 2011
Medical staff use a Geiger counter to screen a woman for possible radiation exposure after she was evacuated from an area within 20 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, at a public welfare center in Hitachi City, Ibaraki, March 16, 2011

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says he will travel to Japan to gather firsthand information about the crisis at an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant, after stating that the agency needs more timely information from the Japanese government.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Vienna, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said he hopes to arrive in Japan as early as Thursday and to stay for a day. He said he would meet with high-level officials and discuss what assistance the United Nations nuclear agency can provide.

The IAEA has been trying to assess the situation at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant from afar.

US Military sets 'no-go' zone

The Pentagon said Wednesday that U.S. forces in Japan are now not allowed within an 80-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima plant, on fears of radiation exposure.

Meanwhile, a small team of Japanese workers at the plant continue emergency efforts to pump water into the facility's reactors to keep the nuclear cores from melting down and releasing radiation into the atmosphere.

Plant operators began the emergency measures after Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the reactors. The workers were temporarily evacuated from the facility Wednesday after radiation emissions rose to dangerously high levels.

Assessing damage, contingency plans

Officials also had to cancel plans to drop water by helicopter onto the damaged number 3 reactor after deciding radiation levels were too high to safely conduct the operation.

Television images showed white plumes rising from the building housing the number 3 reactor. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo it was probably steam escaping from a rupture in the containment chamber housing the unit's nuclear core.

Officials announced a similar rupture in the chamber of the number 2 unit a day earlier.

Japanese police plan to dispatch water cannons to douse a storage pool holding spent fuel at the number 4 reactor, after another fire broke out there, releasing a plume of radiation, before it was put out.

Radiation levels monitored

Residents within 30 kilometers of the plant have been told to remain inside to limit the risk of radiation exposure.

The IAEA also said radiation has risen slightly in Tokyo, 240 kilometers to the south, but not to levels considered dangerous to human health.  Still, concerned citizens in the capital have scrambled to buy up facemasks, food and other supplies at local markets out of fear the situation will worsen.

Some foreign governments have warned their nationals to leave or avoid travel to the capital.

At the time of the earthquake, only the reactors at units 1, 2 and 3, were in use, and were inside thick concrete containment chambers designed to hold in any radiation, even if the rods melt down. Explosions have destroyed the outer buildings of all three of the units, however, caused when technicians vented steam from the containment chambers to ease a dangerous buildup of pressure.

Officials said the chambers surrounding units 2 and 3 now have been cracked, allowing radiation to escape.

Cooling the fuel rods

The fuel rods at units 4, 5 and 6 had been removed for maintenance weeks before the earthquake struck and placed in cooling ponds outside the containment chambers

Even when they are not in use, nuclear fuel rods remain very hot for weeks or months. Unless they are kept cool with a steady supply of water, their outer casings can melt away releasing radiation into the air.

A small team of emergency workers have been pumping seawater onto the fuel rods at all six of the plant's reactors. Japan's Health Ministry earlier announced it was raising the legal limit to the amount of radiation exposure allowed for workers, allowing them to work longer at the site.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, and residents within 30 kilometers have been advised to remain in their homes.

The drama has caused alarm across a country already traumatized by the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan.

The governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, said at a news conference that panic caused by inaccurate reporting of the nuclear crisis is preventing relief supplies from reaching the evacuees and victims of the earthquake. He urged nuclear power company officials to give out more accurate information and appealed to all Japanese to extend help to those who have been evacuated.

Edano said Japan is preparing to ask the United States for technical assistance and may reach out to other countries. The International Atomic Energy Agency also is preparing to dispatch a team of experts.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid