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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs