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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.