News / Asia

Japan Turns to Desperate Measures to Cool Nuclear Reactors

Screen grabs from Japanese national broadcaster NHK show a Japanese military cargo helicopter dumping water onto reactor number 3 at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 17, 2011
Screen grabs from Japanese national broadcaster NHK show a Japanese military cargo helicopter dumping water onto reactor number 3 at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 17, 2011

The Japanese military is using high-pressure fire hoses to spray water on earthquake-damaged nuclear reactors in a desperate attempt to cool down dangerously-hot fuel rods, as it acknowledges that time is running out.

Earlier Thursday, the government used aerial water drops -- after aborting the plan a day earlier because of radiation danger to the helicopter pilots.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said the government had decided it "could not delay the mission any further."  But televised pictures showed much of the water being blown away from the target and the effort was suspended after four attempts.

High radiation levels around the plant 240 kilometers north of Tokyo are making it impossible for workers to stay at the facility for more than a few minutes at a time, and initial radiation readings suggest the first helicopter drops had little effect.

Officials said Thursday they soon hope to restore electricity to the plant, raising hopes that more efficient pumps can be deployed to apply water to the fuel rods at the crippled plant's six nuclear reactors.

US advises citizens to leave

The United States and other governments have advised their nationals to stay at least 80 kilometers from the plant -- a radius much larger than the Japanese exclusion zone -- and many governments are evacuating staff from embassies in Tokyo.

U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Naoto Kan early Thursday in Tokyo to express his admiration for the courage of the Japanese people and renew his offer of assistance, including with the nuclear crisis.

The call came hours after nuclear power officials in Washington said they believe all water has dried up in the cooling tank at Fukushima's number 4 reactor, leaving the fuel rods exposed to the air. If the rods become hot enough, they can melt or burn through their outer casing, releasing high levels of radiation into the air.

Japanese nuclear officials said Thursday they could not confirm those remarks, made by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko. But they said water levels in the cooling tank at unit 3 are dangerously low.

The prime minister's office Thursday called on citizens to save electricity as it  warned of a "massive power outage" in the area served by the Tokyo Electric Power Company.



What caused damage

Normal cooling systems for the plant were destroyed by last week's earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out electricity to the plant and damaged emergency backup generators.

Officials say they are close to having electricity restored, but chief government spokesman Yukio Edano warned that even then, much of the original pumping equipment has been damaged by seawater and will have to be replaced.

Three of the plant's six reactors were operating when the quake struck, while three others were shut down for maintenance. All three of the reactors that were operating have since suffered explosions that destroyed their outer housing. Officials believe that at two of the units, the explosions also ruptured the inner containment chambers which protect against radiation leaks.

Focus on cooling tanks

But current concerns are focused on cooling tanks at all six reactors where used fuel rods are stored. For months, these remain hot enough to catch fire and release lethal radiation unless they can be kept under sufficient amounts of water.

Japan has evacuated more than 200,000 people from a 20-kilometer radius around the plant and advised anyone within 30 kilometers to remain indoors. Many are huddled in makeshift facilities amid frigid temperatures and scarce food supplies.

In his phone call to Kan, Obama said the United States "is determined to do everything possible to support Japan in overcoming the effects" of last week's earthquake and tsunami.

He expressed his extraordinary admiration for the character and resolve of the Japanese people" and discussed U.S. assistance including "military assets with expertise in nuclear response and consequence management."

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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 Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs