News / Asia

Japan's PM Pessimistic About Crippled Nuclear Complex

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan in front of the Japanese flag with a black mourning cloth during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, March 25, 2011.
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan in front of the Japanese flag with a black mourning cloth during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, March 25, 2011.

Two weeks after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami that severely damaged a Japanese nuclear power plant, the situation is still not under control.

On Friday evening, the leader of Japan's government shared his pessimism about the current state of the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant.

Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, looking somber in a nationally televised briefing, described the situation at the plant as remaining "very grave and serious."

Vigilance is needed, said Kan, because we have not reached an optimistic point. But he also said things do not appear to be getting worse.

Nuclear engineer Masashi Goto, who resigned his job as a power plant designer over safety concerns, says it is difficult to predict what will happen next at the stricken plant.

Masashi Goto, speaking in Tokyo on March 25, 2011.
Masashi Goto, speaking in Tokyo on March 25, 2011.

Goto points out that events that were considered impossible at Fukushima have already occurred. And he says, while unlikely, more hydrogen explosions among the used fuel rods and excessive heat that can damage container vessels cannot be ruled out.

Steam continued to rise Friday from several reactor buildings at the nuclear facility in northeastern Japan. Work continues to try to bring automated cooling systems back on line that would help prevent an even potentially worse spread of radiation from the severely damaged complex.

Since the March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, high radiation levels, fires and explosions at some of the six reactors have slowed efforts to make critical repairs to stabilize the situation.

A high level of radiation detected Thursday in water at the No. 3 reactor's turbine building may have come from the reactor core. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says there is no data, however, to suggest the reactor vessel has been cracked or damaged.

Concern about the reactor grew after workers laying cable in the turbine building were exposed to water 10,000 times more radioactive than normal levels in the coolant water. Two of the workers were transferred Friday to the National Institute of Radiological Science for treatment of radiation burns on their feet.

Japan's Defense Ministry says pure water and pumps supplied by the United States military will be brought to Fukushima 1 to cool the reactors. It would replace the sea water being used that is causing corrosion because of an accumulation of tons of salt.

Scientists say chloride in the salt could also break open the zirconium alloy layer of protection around the fuel rods which prevents volatile radioactive elements from escaping.

Tokyo Electric Power confirms that zirconium 95 in sea water several hundred meters from the Fukushima plant has been detected since Wednesday when testing began there for additional radioactive elements.

A spokesman for the Japanese prime minister's office tells VOA there is no clear evidence that any fuel rod covering has been breached.

The continuing emission of radioactive vapor has prompted warnings about drinking tap water as far away as 300 kilometers south of the plant. It also has raised safety concerns internationally about Japanese vegetables, milk and seafood.

Japan's government has recommended people living between 20 and 30 kilometers from the facility leave their homes due to dwindling food supplies. Those within 20 kilometers were previously ordered out of the area due to radiation fears.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid