News / Asia

    Japan's Nuclear Crisis Deepens With Fire, Radiation Leaks

    Medical staff screen people who are concerned over radiation exposure in Niigata, northern Japan March 16, 2011.
    Medical staff screen people who are concerned over radiation exposure in Niigata, northern Japan March 16, 2011.

    The crisis at Japan's earthquake-stricken nuclear plant is deepening, with radiation emissions rising Wednesday to levels that forced authorities to temporarily evacuate the last technicians from the facility.

    National television showed pictures of helicopters being prepared to drop water onto the Fukushima power plant's damaged number 3 reactor, in a desperate attempt to lower temperatures and prevent the nuclear fuel rods inside from melting down.

    But NHK Television said the military aborted the plan after another helicopter flew over the plant to monitor radiation readings. Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said new preparations were under way late Wednesday to begin injecting water into the crippled reactor from the ground.

    New fire erupts

    Japanese awoke Wednesday to televised photos of a new fire at Fukushima's number 4 reactor, where a two-hour blaze on Tuesday released a plume of radiation that was detected as far away as Tokyo, 240 kilometers to the south. The new fire died down after a half-hour, and was soon replaced by clouds of white smoke pouring out of the number 3 unit.

    At a press conference in Tokyo, Edano said the smoke was probably steam escaping from a rupture in the containment chamber housing the unit's nuclear core. Officials announced a similar rupture in the chamber of the number 2 unit a day earlier.

    Danger forces evacuation

    Edano said the skeleton crew of about 50 workers still struggling to pump seawater onto the fuel rods at all six of the plant's reactors had been removed from the plant for their safety, but that radiation levels appeared to be dropping by midday. He said later that monitoring showed radiation levels within 30 kilometers of the plant were not so high as to pose a threat to human health.

    Even when they are not in use, the nuclear fuel rods remain very hot for weeks or months. Unless they are kept cool with a steady supply of water, their outer casings can melt away releasing radiation into the air.

    At units 1, 2 and 3, the rods are inside thick concrete containment chambers designed to hold in any radiation, even if the rods melt down. But officials say the chambers surrounding units 2 and 3 have now been cracked, allowing radiation to escape.

    Explosions have destroyed the outer buildings at all three of the units, caused when technicians vented steam from the containment chambers to ease a dangerous buildup of pressure. Seventy percent of the fuel rods at the number 1 reactor and 33 percent at the number 2 reactor are believed to have already been damaged or melted.

    At units 4, 5 and 6, the rods were removed for maintenance before last week's earthquake and placed in cooling ponds outside the containment chambers. With the plant's pumping systems damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, those rods are also in danger of becoming exposed.

    Worry spreads across Japan

    The drama has caused alarm across a country already traumatized by the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan.

    The governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, said at a news conference that panic caused by inaccurate reporting of the nuclear crisis is preventing relief supplies from reaching the evacuees and victims of the earthquake. He urged nuclear power company officials to give out more accurate information and appealed to all Japanese to extend help to those who have been evacuated.

    In Tokyo, residents have been buying up facemasks and protective gear while some foreign governments have warned their nationals to leave the capital.

    Edano said Japan is preparing to ask the United States for technical assistance and may reach out to other countries. The International Atomic Energy Agency is also preparing to dispatch a team of experts.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora