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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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