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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid