News / Asia

Japan on 'Maximum Alert' as Workers Try to Stem Leaks of Toxic Water

Children watch their father is screened for radiation at a shelter in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 29, 2011
Children watch their father is screened for radiation at a shelter in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 29, 2011
Martyn Williams

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday the country is on "maximum alert," adding that the situation at the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant is "unpredictable."

Kan made the comments in an appearance before parliament Tuesday to answer questions about the nuclear crisis.

Political theater?

The prime minister said his government is giving its complete attention to the problem of halting radiation leaks more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant's cooling systems. And he pointed out that a trip he made to the Fukushima plant in the first 24 hours of the emergency was necessary and not political theater.

Later, in a budgetary meeting, Kan said his ruling Democratic Party may have to delay some of its campaign pledges so it can funnel money toward the rebuilding effort.

Meanwhile, workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant continued to remove highly radioactive water from buildings at the facility, hours after plant operator TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power) said trace amounts of plutonium had been detected in soil samples.

Radioactive leaks

The discovery of plutonium in minute amounts, revealed Monday night, raised new worries about the leakage of radioactive materials from Japan's crippled nuclear complex. The plutonium provides new evidence of a meltdown in one of the reactors, but the levels are not expected to harm human health.

Lake Barrett is a nuclear engineer who led the cleanup operation after the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States.

"As far as the plutonium is going, that is to be expected. There is plutonium from atmospheric weapons testing in the environment that has been there for decades," Barrett said. "So as far as the isotopes being released from the stricken plant there, plutonium is the least of the worries."

Toxic water

Of more pressing concern to TEPCO is the toxic water found in the basements of three turbine buildings and adjoining tunnels that approach the sea.  The tunnels terminate in shafts that are less than 100 meters from the shore and the water level is close to the top.

Workers are putting sandbags and concrete blocks around the shaft openings to stop water reaching the sea, in case it overflows. They are also pumping water from the tunnels, but the operation is slow because they lack tanks to store it all.

Barrett says he thinks Tokyo Electric Power will get the job done.

"I think the operators there are looking to get electricity to establish cooling and they are cooling the pools.  We have the capability, as we proved at Three-Mile Island, to clean up messes," he said. "Now this mess, this challenge there at Fukushima is much, much greater.  There is much more contaminated water in the basement of the building, but I think the TEPCO people are making progress on the challenge they have ahead."

The detection of plutonium bothered Japan's stock market and led to a sell-off in energy, fish and forestry stocks. TEPCO shares sank by their maximum daily limit after a newspaper reported the company may be nationalized.

The government says it is not currently considering that.



You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid