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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid