Situation at damaged nuclear power plant remains ‘very grave’, says Japanese Prime Minister

Two weeks after a disastrous earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, the situation at the severely damaged Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has been described by the Prime Minister as “very grave and serious”. In a nationally televised report to the nation on Friday, Naoto Kan said the Japanese government was “not in a position where we can be optimistic.”

Radiation is reported to still be leaking from the plant, in Fukushima prefecture. “The source of the radiation seems to be the reactor core,” said Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama, adding that radiation was “more likely” coming from the core than from the reactor’s spent fuel pool.

The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant pictured five days after the earthquake by Digital Globe.

On Thursday three workers stepped into contaminated cooling water in the reactor’s turbine room while trying to replace cables at reactor No. 3, Nishiyama said. The water seeped into the the boots of two of the workers, touching their skin and causing lesions; the third worker’s clothing protected him from the water. The two workers with skin lesions were hospitalized for radiation exposure. The radiation level of the contaminated water measured 10,000 times the level of cooling water in an undamaged reactor.

Work has been stopped on attempts to reattach a permanent power line to the cooling system in reactor No. 3, and the building has been evacuated. Nishiyama could give no predictions of when work would resume. The possibility that water is leaking from the core of reactor No. 3 increases the danger for workers who attempt to cool the crippled plant. The reactors must be cooled before more safety work can begin.

Japan had been using seawater for cooling since the disaster crippled the power plant’s cooling systems, but U.S. officials were concerned that saltwater could harm the equipment, causing it to seize up and corrode, thereby worsening the situation.

U.S. military denies reports helicopter opened fire on Libyan civilians during rescue mission

A spokesperson for the United States military has tonight categorically denied reports of a U.S. helicopter opening fire on Libyan civilians during a rescue mission of two fighter pilots who crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi.

Conflicting reports have emerged of the mission to rescue the two U.S. fighter pilots who ejected from their aircraft. The F-15E Strike Eagle that they were flying reportedly suffered a mechanical failure on Monday night and crashed. Soon after the accident, a U.S. military helicopter landed in the area to extract the airmen and reportedly opened fire on civilians, wounding six of them.

Photograph of a V-22 Osprey.

Unconfirmed reports indicate the six civilians were taken to a hospital in the area after being fired upon by the helicopter, a V-22 Osprey. One of the wounded, a young boy, was shot in the leg, which will likely now require amputation. Another of those reported injured said the shooting caused “great panic.” Wikinews understands the Pentagon is to open an investigation into the rescue mission.

Aerial view of The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia.

However, a U.S. military spokesperson denied the reports “one hundred percent”, and said the incident “didn’t happen”. He said the aircraft which rescued the two airman was not fitted with weapons. “The Osprey is not armed and the Marines barely came off the aircraft,” he said.

The pilot of the fighter aircraft was extracted during the rescue mission, while the weapons officer was found and cared for by Libyan rebels before later being retrieved by American forces. Both crew members suffered only minor injuries, the military said. The fighter aircraft was deployed over Libya in support of the no-fly zone approved by the United Nations Security Council over Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

 

Japan facing ‘most severe crisis since World War II’, says prime minister

Amongst the aftermath of a magnitude 8.9 earthquake which struck on Friday, followed by a tsunami, Naoto Kan, the current prime minister of Japan, has claimed that the country is experiencing its largest difficulties since the end of World War II in 1945.

“The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II,” Kan stated. Speaking on television, he stated that “[w]hether we Japanese can overcome this crisis depends on each of us. I strongly believe that we can get over this great earthquake and tsunami by joining together.”

Sendai City after Tsunami.

Kan reported that there were limited supplies of electricity due to the closure of numerous power stations, including a nuclear power plant located in Fukushima Prefecture. According to NHK, a broadcasting organization in Japan, approximately 310,000 individuals have been transported to safety in shelters that, in various cases, do not contain electricity.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The Government of Japan has reported the deaths of one thousand individuals, although thousands of others have not been taken into account. The police have claimed that the death toll in the Miyagi Prefecture as a result of the earthquake and tsunami could be in excess of ten thousand. 100,000 troops – which equates to approximately 40% of the country’s armed forces – are said to have been committed to assisting with the survivors of the disasters.

The nuclear agency of Japan consider the circumstances at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant to be Level 4 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, which is an accident with local consequences. According to BBC News Online, incidents like this usually cause one person to die from causes related to radiation. No individuals from the power plant are reported to have died.

Japanese tsunami impacts California coastal town

The tsunami caused by Japan’s 8.9 quake on Friday destroyed the commercial fishing harbor of Crescent City, California, a coastal town still recovering from a devastating tsunami in 1964. Although most of the fishing boats were removed in advance, the 198 docking slips that the harbor had provided for boats, enabling the livelihoods of the fishing crews, were lost.

Harbormaster Richard Young said that the harbor is destroyed. “We’re facing not only physical but financial disaster,” he said during a briefing. “Our business activity came to a screeching halt yesterday, and that affects the entire community.” Councilwoman Kelly Schellong said, “This is going to have a trickle-down effect beyond the lost jobs.”

Crescent City, California harbor.

Crescent City’s unemployment rate was 13 percent before Friday’s tsunami destroyed its commerical fishing industry.

The 1964 tsunami that hit Crescent City killed 11, demolished the harbor and heavily damaged large portions of the business district. Although the city subsequently rebuilt, another tsunami again damaged the harbor in 2006. The city was in the midst of reconstructing the harbor when Friday’s tsunami hit. The harbor is surrounded by land and a breakwater built after the 1964 disaster. The tsunami’s huge waves entered through a small opening provided for the entrance and exit of boats.

Lori Dengler, director of the Humboldt Earthquake Education Center, says Friday’s tsunami was one of as many as 38 tsunamis to strike Crescent City within the last 78 years. She calls the city a “tsunami magnet” because of the topography of the ocean floor that contributes to its vulnerability. She also blames the breakwater built after the 1964 tsunami because it traps tsunami waves in the harbor, causing them to boil and churn.

A county supervisor found the view painful on Saturday as she surveyed the wreckage accompanied by state officials. She is hoping they will provide emergency assistance. “We don’t have the financial resources,” she said. “We need money. That’s what it takes to fix thingsā€¦. Our poor little harbor.”

8.9 magnitude earthquake hits Japan, causes tsunami

A massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake occurred in northern Japan early on Friday. The earthquake’s epicenter is 130 km (81 miles) east of Sendai, in the Honshu island of Japan. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter was at a depth of 24.4 km (15.2 miles). 29 people are reported dead. (www.bbc.co.uk)

The earthquake triggered tsunamis in various parts of the country. Japan issued a tsunami warning immediately after the earthquake, followed by tsunami warnings for New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Guam, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Hawaii, Northern Marianas (USA) and Taiwan. It is confirmed for the Philippines that if the tsunami doesn’t hit the country for 2 hours (5:00 – 7:00) it will be slightly safer, it is currently alert number two for all regions.

Effect of 2011 Sendai earthquake in Tokyo

The tsunami attained a height of 10 meters, and swept houses, buildings and cars according to reports. Shinkansen stopped the bullet train service following the quake. According to reports, an oil refinery was set ablaze by the quake at Ichihara, Chiba prefecture to the east of Tokyo.

The National Weather Service said that earthquakes “of this size” often “generate tsunamis potentially dangerous to coasts outside the source region.” “Based on all available data a tsunami may have been generated by this earthquake that could be destructive on coastal areas even far from the epicenter,” it added.

Sendai earthquake - Refinery fire.

About 20 people were reportedly injured in Tokyo following the collapse of a roof of a hall. 4 million people are estimated to be without power in the capital. In Sendai, several people are feared to be buried under the remains of a collapsed hotel.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said there had been no nuclear plant radiation leaks caused by the disaster. He expressed sympathy to all victims in his address, promising help, and stating that an emergency response headquarters had been set up. No death toll has been confirmed yet. The disaster is currently being broadcasted world wide in lots of local channels and international cable ones like CNN, History Channel, Discovery Channel, and a lot more. Japanese, and other eastern sian countries’ officials are devastated by this.

 

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