World — 13 March 2011

Atomic Emergency: Can Japan avert a meltdown, or not?

There are now three reactors at the Fukujima nuclear power plant which are in trouble. Technicians have been using fire trucks to pump seawater into the Fukijama Dai Ichi (Number 1) reactor in a desperate last-ditch attempt to cool it down. They used sea-water because there was no fresh water available to them, but that means that the reactor will never be capable of being started up again.

Engineers have been venting radioactive steam from at least two of the three damaged reactors to try and reduce the pressure inside. Some observers believe this could indicate the beginning of a meltdown or a partial meltdown in reactors No 1 and No 3 (Fukujima Dai Ichi and Dai Ni).

The Tokyo Power Company and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the reactors are safe, but no outside experts have confirmed this. There is no conclusive proof either way, and some people believe that officials have seemed slow to release bad information.

The nuclear facility is on the sea coast 170 miles (270 kms) north of Tokyo.

So far, nine people are believed to have been radiated. Three have been hospitalised and all are being treated with iodine in an attempt to stop the radiation entering the victims’ lymph glands. Authorities have also been handing out iodine pills to the nearby population. 170,000 people are now trying to evacuate all areas within a radius of 12 miles (20 kms) of the Fukujima nuclear plant.

Six million people in Japan have lost electrical power and 2.5 million are still without power. At least one million people are without clean water and many are without sanitation.

There are no bottles of drinking water left in stores any more and almost no food. There are no flashlights (electric torches) or batteries to be found on shelves, and petrol (gasoline) is in very short supply. There are long queues outside any gas stations that still have any fuel.

It is winter in Japan and overnight temperatures last night dropped to freezing point. Winds and wet weather make survival even harder for trapped survivors who may be still alive, and for the rescuers who are trying to find them and get them out alive.

There are more than 200,000 people who are homeless and in need of shelter. About 1/3 of these have been housed in emergency shelters.

There are now a total of 10 US warships on a mission to help with rescue efforts in Japan. And the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has arrived. It will act as a refuelling base for emergency helicopters.

Emergency teams from Australia, New Zealand should have arrived by now. More rescuers are on the way from South Korea and now from China, who are sending a military team of 15 members plus 4 tons of equipment and power generators.

Teams are already on the way from the United States, and the United Kingdom is putting together a search and rescue contingent right now. Poland and Russia have said they will send firefighters and rescuers to help the Japanese as well.

Death Toll:

763 dead, 639 officialloy missing and 1419 have been injured. More than 3000 have been rescued.

Editor’s note: This sitrep is now out of date. An up to date news report has been posted for you on NEWS


About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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