Helicopters dumped water Thursday on and near the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the latest attempt to halt the nuclear accident that appeared to be spinning out of control. The helicopters belong to the nation’s self-defense forces, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Initially, just a few drops were carried out before the operation was suspended. An NHK commentator said about 100 would be needed for the operation to succeed.
During the afternoon, engineers were planning to begin the process of restoring power to the stricken nuclear complex, a government official said. The complex lost its power Friday, when a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami hammered northeastern Japan.
"Today, we are trying to restore the power supply using the power lines from outside," said the official with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. "This is one of the high-priority issues that we have to address."
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Once the power supply has been re-established, the cooling system will be operated using seawater, he said. But he warned that the process will not be immediate.
FUKUSHIMA, Japan – Nuclear plant operators trying to avoid complete reactor meltdowns said Thursday that they were close to completing a new power line that might end Japans crisis, but several ominous signs have also emerged: a surge in radiation levels, unexplained white smoke and spent fuel rods that U.S. officials said could be on the verge of spewing radioactive material.U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in Washington on Wednesday that all the water was gone from the spent fuel pools at Unit 4 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, but Japanese officials denied it. Hajime Motojuku, spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., said the "condition is stable" at Unit 4.If Jaczko is correct, it would mean theres nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shells of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.
Japan raced to avert a catastrophe on Wednesday after an explosion at a quake-crippled nuclear power plant sent radiation wafting into Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and others to stock up on essential supplies.The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said two workers at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima were missing after two more blasts at the facility on Tuesday blew a hole in a building housing a reactor and cooling pool for spent fuel rods.Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km 18 miles of the facility — a population of 140,000 — to remain indoors, as Japan grappled with the worlds most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.Officials in Tokyo — 240 km 150 miles to the south of the plant — said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal at one point but not a threat to human health in the sprawling high-tech city of 13 million people.Toxicologist Lee Tin-lap at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said such a radiation level was not an immediate threat to people but the long-term consequences were unknown."You are still breathing this into your lungs, and there is passive absorption in the skin, eyes and mouth and we really do not know what long-term impact that would have," Lee told Reuters by telephone.Around eight hours after the explosions, the U.N. weather agency said winds were dispersing radioactive material over the Pacific Ocean, away from Japan and other Asian countries.As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japans Nikkei index fell as much as 14 percent before ending down 10.6 percent, compounding a slide of 6.2 percent the day before. The two-day fall has wiped some $620 billion off the market.
Anxiety and distress was growing among evacuees near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant Sunday, a day after a blast occurred and fears increased over possible radioactive leaks from the plant that was hit by Friday’s massive earthquake.
"What’s going to happen, and when…?" a local town official said in expressing concerns, although he noted that people are not panicking. He evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma, where the plant is located, to the city of Tamura in the same prefecture, farther away from the plant.
Noting that some of the evacuees have also fallen ill because of fatigue and anxiety about the future three days after evacuation, the official said, "There are calls for information about hospitals. There is also a need for medicine."
As the government expanded from 10 kilometers to 20 km the radius of the evacuation area for residents living near the plant, where one of the reactors partially melted Saturday and the blast occurred, another 180,000 residents were forced to seek refuge.
Japan battled to contain a radiation leak at an earthquake-crippled nuclear plant on Sunday, but faced a fresh threat with the failure of the cooling system in a second reactor.
Operator TEPCO said it was preparing to release some steam to relieve pressure in the No.3 reactor at the plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo — which would release a small amount of radiation — following an explosion and leak on Saturday in the facility’s No. 1 reactor.
As strong aftershocks continued to shake Japan’s main island the desperate search for survivors from Friday massive earthquake and tsunami continued, and the death toll was expected to rise.
Thousands spent another freezing night huddled over heaters in emergency shelters along the northeastern coast, a scene of devastation after the 8.9 magnitude quake sent a 10-meter (33-foot) wave surging through towns and cities.
Kyodo news agency said the number of dead or unaccounted for as a result of the quake and tsunami was expected to exceed 1,800. It also reported there had been no contact with around 10,000 people in one small town, more than half its population.