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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid