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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More