News / Asia

US Urges Citizens to Get Away from Japan Nuclear Plant

Japan's Defense Ministry officials plot possibly radioactive affected areas on a map at the emergency rescue headquarters monitoring leaked radiation from the Fukushima nuclear facilities, Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 16, 2011
Japan's Defense Ministry officials plot possibly radioactive affected areas on a map at the emergency rescue headquarters monitoring leaked radiation from the Fukushima nuclear facilities, Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 16, 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has advised Americans to evacuate the area within 80 kilometers of an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant, or take shelter indoors, out of concern that radiation leaking from the plant could contaminate the area.

The evacuation warning, issued by U.S. Ambassador John Roos Wednesday, is more extreme than an order issued by the Japanese government, which has urged its citizens to take precautions up to 30 kilometers from the plant.

Roos said the order was based on the reports of U.S. experts in Japan as well as information provided by Japanese officials.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says he will travel to Japan to gather firsthand information about the crisis, after stating that the agency needs more timely information from the Japanese government.

Speaking at a news conference in Vienna Wednesday, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said he hopes to arrive in Japan as early as Thursday and to stay for a day.  He said he would meet with high-level officials and discuss what assistance the United Nations nuclear agency can provide.

Meanwhile, a small team of Japanese workers at the plant continue emergency efforts to pump water into the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant to keep the nuclear cores from melting down and releasing radiation into the air.

Plant operators began the emergency measures after Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the reactors.

The workers were temporarily evacuated from the facility Wednesday after radiation emissions rose to dangerously high levels.

Officials also had to cancel plans to drop water by helicopter onto the damaged number 3 reactor after deciding radiation levels were too high to safely conduct the operation.

Television images showed white plumes rising from the building housing the number 3 reactor.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo it 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.

Japanese police plan to dispatch water cannons to douse a storage pool holding spent fuel at the number 4 reactor, after another fire broke out there, releasing a plume of radiation, before it was put out.

Residents within 20 kilometers have been told to evacuate 30 kilometers of the plant have been told to remain inside to limit the risk of radiation exposure.

The IAEA also says radiation has risen slightly in Tokyo, 240 kilometers to the south, but not to levels considered dangerous to human health.  Still, concerned citizens in the capital have scrambled to buy up facemasks, food and other supplies at local markets out of fear the situation will worsen.

Some foreign governments have warned their nationals to leave or avoid travel to the capital.

U.S. forces in Japan, which have been helping with relief efforts, have also been ordered to stay within 80-kilometers of the Fukushima plant, in line with the order given to U.S. civilians in the area.

At the time of the earthquake, only the reactors at units 1, 2 and 3, were in use, and were inside thick concrete containment chambers designed to hold in any radiation, even if the rods melt down.  But explosions have destroyed the outer buildings of all three of the units, caused when technicians vented steam from the containment chambers to ease a dangerous buildup of pressure.

Officials say the chambers surrounding units 2 and 3 have now been cracked, allowing radiation to escape.

The fuel rods at units 4, 5 and 6 had been removed for maintenance weeks before the earthquake struck and placed in cooling ponds outside the containment chambers

Even when they are not in use, 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.

A small team of workers has been pumping seawater onto the fuel rods at all six of the plant's reactors.  Japan's Health Ministry earlier announced it was raising the legal limit to the amount of radiation exposure allowed for workers, allowing them to work longer at the site.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, and residents within 30 kilometers have been advised to remain in their homes.

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.

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 (IAEA) is also preparing to dispatch a team of experts.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid