Japan struggles to prevent n-meltdown, 20 people irradiated (Roundup)March 18th, 2011 - 12:02 am ICT by IANS
Tokyo, March 17 (IANS) Japan scrambled to prevent a nuclear meltdown as military vehicles late Thursday started to pour water on the over-heating Fukushima plant that was severely damaged in last week’s quake and tsunami. Twenty people were confirmed to have suffered from radiation exposure.
High levels of radiation were hindering efforts to cool a reactor in the stricken nuclear plant.
Five military firefighting vehicles began to douse the fuel storage pool at reactor 3 of Fukushima I power plant after police water cannons could not get close enough earlier in the day, DPA ported.
The move has been effective as steam was seen rising from the damaged building, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator, said.
The dumping of 30 tonnes of sea water over the reactor by military helicopters early Thursday had failed to reduce the level of radiation.
Four giant helicopters dumped water on the nuclear power plant, where there have been explosions at three reactors while a blaze engulfed a fourth reactor.
Reactor No. 3 and 4 were targeted in a water dumping operation that began at 9.48 a.m. with helicopters flying over the stricken plant, which has now become the centre of a global concern.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant was badly damaged in last Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami. Since then technicians have been trying to cool the reactor core, without much success.
The water dumping operation was launched after TEPCO failed in its efforts, Xinhua reported.
Video footage showed the attempts were not very successful, with most of the water falling outside the complex, BBC reported.
On Wednesday, the helicopters - capable of carrying up to 7.5 tonnes of water each - were forced to abort a similar operation amid concerns over high radiation levels.
A meltdown occurs when nuclear fuel rods cannot be cooled and the core melts. The fuel can spill out of the containment unit shield and spread radioactivity through air and water, which can cause immediate and long-term health problems.
A police unit also used a water cannon truck to cool down a spent fuel rod pool at the No. 4 reactor at the quake-hit power plant.
The nuclear plant was rocked by a hydrogen explosion Tuesday and by a fire Wednesday, raising concerns that the fuel rods would melt and release radiation.
Japanese authorities have called for an evacuation of people within 20 km from the Fukushima plant and told residents within 30 km to stay indoors, DPA said.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukio Amano, was travelling to Japan to gather more information.
At least 23 nuclear and rescue workers have been injured and 20 have received high radiation doses so far at the plant, the IAEA said Thursday.
According to DPA, explosions at the three reactor units caused 15 casualties.
The IAEA did not say whether any of the 23 injuries was due to radiation.
The catastrophic quake and ensuing tsunami have left 5,178 people dead. A total of 8,606 people were still unaccounted for till Thursday morning, Japan’s National Police Agency said.
Residents painted a bleak picture of the still-unfolding crises, but remained hopeful that they will pull through.
In the hardest-hit areas, thousands of citizens have found comfort in daily routine - lining up for lunch, folding and unfolding what few belongings they had, CNN said.
In Tokyo, long queues of foreigners waited outside the immigration office for permits to temporarily leave the capital.
In areas badly hit by the tsunami, the chilly winter weather has added to the misery of survivors. Officials in Fukushima prefecture said evacuation centres lack basic necessities, including sufficient hot food.
About 450,000 people are staying in temporary shelters, many sleeping on the floors.
According to RIA Novosti, Russian rescuers intended to search a 100 sq km area for survivors around the disaster-struck Japanese city of Sendai late Thursday, the head of the search team said.
Russia has sent a total of 165 rescuers to Japan. They have all been stationed in Sendai together with rescue teams from other countries.
“Rescuers are currently working near a fishing port and an airport in a 100 sq km area in the city of Ishinomaki, four km to the north of Sendai,” rescue worker Andrei Legoshin said. “Unfortunately, we have not yet found any survivors.”
The escalating crisis due to leakage of radioactive materials from the Fukushima plant has raised health concerns among some Chinese, increasing sales of iodine tablets, the China Daily reported.
Manufacturers of potassium iodine in the US and Sweden have said they do not have any more supplies. The health risk is due to radioactive iodine that can lead to thyroid cancer, a media report said, adding the tablet floods the thyroid with stable iodine so as to prevent it from absorbing the radioactive version.
The devastating earthquake may affect auto production at two joint ventures in China due to interruption in imports of vehicle parts. The two affected vehicle plants are Dongfeng Nissan and Dongfeng Honda in Hubei province, Xinhua reported.
Japanese stocks fell sharply in Thursday morning trading as the yen surged against major currencies amid growing fears of a potential meltdown at the nuclear plant.
- Choppers dump water over Japan n-plant, 20 people irradiated (Night Lead) - Mar 17, 2011
- Choppers pour water over Japan n-plant, 20 people irradiated (Evening Lead) - Mar 17, 2011
- Helicopters dump water to cool Japan n-plant (Lead) - Mar 17, 2011
- Japan quake toll may cross 10,000, no nuclear meltdown (Second Intro Roundup) - Mar 14, 2011
- Complications arise in radioactive water removal at Japan's Fukushima nuke plant - Mar 31, 2011
- Quake-hit Japan faces nuclear crisis, toll may cross 10,000 (Third Lead) - Mar 13, 2011
- Japan struggles to tame n-fallout, hikes alert level (Night Lead) - Mar 18, 2011
- Fresh blast in Japan n-plant; 2,000 more bodies found (Third Lead) - Mar 14, 2011
- More damage to Japan's n-reactors, radiation levels soar (Third Lead) - Mar 15, 2011
- Japan hikes n-plant alert level, IAEA calls it extremely serious (Evening Lead) - Mar 18, 2011
- Condition at Fukushima n-plant improving: Japan (Second Intro Roundup) - Mar 20, 2011
- Choppers dump water on Japan nuclear reactor - Mar 17, 2011
- Japan resumes cooling operations at quake-hit nuke plant - Mar 21, 2011
- The day that shook Japan - Mar 11, 2012
- Radioactive levels at Fukushima lower than earlier reported:Kyodo - Mar 28, 2011
Tags: firefighting vehicles, fuel storage, global concern, magnitude earthquake, meltdown 20, military helicopters, military vehicles, nuclear fuel rods, nuclear meltdown, nuclear plant, nuclear power plant, radiation exposure, radiation levels, reactor core, sea water, storage pool, tokyo electric power company, tokyo march, water cannons, xinhua