News / Asia

Frantic Cooling Efforts Continue at Japan's Crippled Nuclear Plant

Aerial view of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, March 18, 2011.
Aerial view of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, March 18, 2011.

Japan is continuing its attempts to cool damaged reactors and exposed fuel rods at the crippled coastal nuclear power plant hit by the tsunami following the magnitude nine earthquake a week ago.

Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan spoke bluntly when a reporter Friday evening asked him about the situation at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

The prime minister says it is "very grave" and people are risking their lives at the crippled plant. But Kan expresses confidence that things will be resolved soon.

He made the remark hours after personnel in fire trucks sprayed water on damaged reactor buildings, making what is considered a risky attempt to cool highly radioactive fuel rods.

Powerful hoses were used to shoot 50 tons of water directly on the buildings, but the military and civilian firefighters have to keep their distance and limit the time they can be inside the complex because of the radiation. The military appears to have given up trying to repeat Thursday's water drops, by helicopter, on the damaged reactor buildings.

Meanwhile, utility workers are extending an emergency power cable to the 40-year-old complex. That would allow a steady supply of electricity to run water pumps. But government officials say it could be Sunday before cooling units can be re-started at the number two and three reactors.

Since the earthquake and tsunami a week ago, fires, explosions and partial melting of cores have been experienced at four of the six reactors at the Fukushima-1 plant.

Officials say the number three reactor remains the priority.  Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel rods, partly composed of especially toxic plutonium are partially exposed. Without water they will continue to heat and potentially spew radiation beyond the coastal facility.

The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times newspapers report that there is a hole in either the floor or sides of the spent fuel pool of the Number 4 reactor. That would present another serious challenge to keeping the rods from being exposed.

Japan's government says although elevated levels of radiation are being detected kilometers away from the crippled plant, they do not pose a risk to human health.

People as far away as Tokyo are not reassured. Families have decided to head to Osaka or farther south and west. Many flights to surrounding countries are reported full with people trying to leave Japan amid news reports of the possibility of meltdowns. Some foreigners say they are also worried because food and other items in markets quickly vanished from shelves.

A number of foreign governments, including the United States, are making chartered aircraft available from the capital for their nationals who want to flee the country.

Some Japanese observers call the radiation fears by those in Tokyo an overreaction, noting those returning home overseas would be exposed to higher levels during the high-altitude flights than if they stayed put.


You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
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 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 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 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.

VOA Blogs