News / Asia

Japan on 'Maximum Alert' for Nuclear Crisis

A worker from a water supply department walks by water faucets set up for survivors at a shelter in the devastated town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, March 28, 2011
A worker from a water supply department walks by water faucets set up for survivors at a shelter in the devastated town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, March 28, 2011

Japan's prime minister says the country is on "maximum alert" over its nuclear crisis as radiation continues to seep out of the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant and traces of plutonium have been found in the soil.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday also warned that the situation remains "unpredictable" at the earthquake-damaged plant. He said his government is giving its complete attention to halting the radiation leaks.

Officials announced earlier that dangerous plutonium has been detected in the soil in five locations around the plant, more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant's cooling systems.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the levels did not exceed normal background levels, but that the composition of the plutonium indicates at least some of it came from the nuclear plant.

Japan's top government spokesman Yukio Edano said Tuesday the government is doing everything it can to bring the situation under control. He said the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and US Armed Forces were providing support and know-how.

Japanese officials have said the presence of plutonium in the soil is evidence of a meltdown in the core of the number 3 reactor, the only one of six at the plant that uses plutonium in its fuel.

The discovery is the latest setback in the effort to shut down the reactors, whose cooling systems were knocked out when a 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11.

More bodies are discovered daily as search crews make their way through the rubble of Japan's northeast coast, bringing the toll by Tuesday to more than 11,000 dead and 17,000 missing. Almost 200,000 more are still living in poorly equipped shelters.

Edano said Tuesday the government had set up a special task force dedicated to supporting the livelihood of those affected by the triple disaster.

On Monday, officials announced that water being used to keep the reactors' fuel rods from overheating has leaked into maintenance tunnels that run alongside three of the reactors and lead within 55 meters of the open ocean. Radiation in the water outside the number two reactor was measured at levels that can cause sickness within an hour.

Workers were already grappling with water at similar radiation levels inside the reactor building, where two workers suffered radiation burns after stepping in the water last week. Authorities say the water must be safely removed from the buildings before workers can resume the crucial work of restoring electrical power to the pumps that run the plant's cooling systems.

At a news conference Tuesday, Edano described the situation as "very grave." He said the workers have no choice but to continue pumping water into the reactors to keep the fuel rods from overheating, even as they confront the challenge of disposing with the contaminated runoff.

Radiation escaping from the plant has made its way into milk and vegetables in the surrounding province and into ocean areas near the facility. It has also infected tap water in Tokyo, 220 kilometers to the south, and has been detected at trace levels as far away as China and South Korea.

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

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More