Video: Nuclear crisis worsens in Japan

  1. Closed captioning of: Nuclear crisis worsens in Japan

    >> you. in the news, radiation is at its highest level yet in the sea water surrounding the quake-ravaged nuclear facility in japan. lee cowan has more from tokyo. lee, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning. yeah, the levels were more than 3,000 times the normal level but experts say it is still not a threat to human safety. it's the highest level read so far since the crisis started and engineers still don't know where the leak is coming from. new aerial pictures of the stricken plant are offering some of the best glimpses yet of the extent of the damage. through a hole blasted in the roof by a hydrogen explosion, experts say they can now tell that some crucial pipes are missing. experts believe it is damaged plumbing that's likely the source of leaking radioactive water, a development that kept workers from making any real progress in getting the crisis under control. officials said today that radiation in nearby seawater had nearly doubled and they are worried that more contaminated water may seep into the ocean if they can't find the source of the leak. so stressful is the situation it was announced the president of the utility who owns the plant was taken to the hospital suffering hypertension and dizziness. the scope of the disaster is staggering. 30,000 people are either dead or missing. there is little that can be salvaged. but as this man put it, we can't dwell in the past, otherwise we'll never move forward. moving forward is what this elementary school is trying to do by holding its graduation. a piano pulled from the rubble offered some of the first music they had heard in weeks as the tsunami's youngest survivors look to a future uncertain at best. back to the numbers for a bit. it's estimated now that the disaster will cost well over $300 billion. that's a conservative estimate. if that's the case it would be the costliest national disaster on record.

    >> lee, thank you.

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/30/2011 4:39:07 PM ET 2011-03-30T20:39:07

Radiation levels recorded at a village about 25 miles from a stricken nuclear power plant are over recommended levels, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday.

The official said the IAEA has told Japan of the finding.

Iitate village lies northwest of the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility, beyond the 19-mile zone in which Japan has urged people to evacuate.

"The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village," IAEA official Denis Flory told a news conference.

Japan set up a 12.5-mile evacuation zone around the plant and maintained that people living further away were safe for about two weeks. However, as the crisis worsened, officials started advising people living up to 19 miles away to consider leaving voluntarily.

Flory also said that Singapore had told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that some cabbages imported from Japan had radiation levels up to nine times the levels recommended for international trade.

Radiation has seeped into the soil and seawater near the stricken nuclear facility and made its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far as Tokyo, 140 miles to the south.

The IAEA has called a high-level meeting in Vienna in June to address nuclear safety in the wake of the crisis, diplomats said Wednesday.

'Very serious'
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said he wants IAEA member states to assess the response to Japan's nuclear emergency and discuss ways to prevent such a disaster happening again.

"The situation (at the plant) continues to be very serious and the efforts to overcome this crisis are increasing," Amano said Wednesday.

The IAEA concern about the extent of radiation came as setbacks to efforts to end the crisis mounted Wednesday:

  • On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater 300 yards outside the plant contained 3,355 times the legal limit for the amount of radioactive iodine — the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean. Two days ago it was 1,800 times higher, NBC News reported. The amount of iodine-131 found south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a "concern," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official. Radioactive iodine is short-lived, with a half-life of just eight days.
  • The stress of reining in Japan's worst crisis since World War II appeared to have taken its toll on Masataka Shimizu, president of power company TEPCO, who went to a hospital late Tuesday. Shimizu, 66, has not been seen in public since a March 13 news conference in Tokyo. Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said Wednesday that Shimizu had been admitted to a Tokyo hospital late Tuesday after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure.
  • TEPCO said it was inevitable that it would have to scrap four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Independent analysts have been saying that.
  • Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news briefing there appeared to be no end in sight to the crisis. "We are not in a situation where we can say we will have this under control by a certain period," he said.

Edano's gloomy assessment caused dismay in the area around the plant.

"We must do everything we can to end this situation as soon as possible for the sake of everyone who has been affected," said Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima prefecture. "I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the suggestion that this might drag out longer."

Although experts have said since the early days of the crisis that the nuclear complex will need to be scrapped because workers have sprayed it with corrosive seawater to keep fuel rods cool, TEPCO acknowledged publicly for the first time Wednesday that at least four of the plant's six reactors will have to be decommissioned.

"After pouring seawater on them ... I believe we cannot use them anymore," TEPCO's chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata said.

Glue and cloth tents
In an effort to reduce the spread of radioactive particles, TEPCO plans to spray resin on the ground around the plant. The company will test the method Thursday in one section of the plant before using it elsewhere, Nishiyama, the safety official, said.

"The idea is to glue them to the ground," he said. But it would be too sticky to use inside buildings or on sensitive equipment.

The government also is considering covering some reactors with cloth tenting, TEPCO said. If successful, that could allow workers to spend longer periods of time in other areas of the plant.

Meanwhile, white smoke was reported coming from another plant, Fukushima Daini, about 10 miles from the troubled one. The smoke quickly dissipated and no radiation was released; officials were looking into its cause.

Japan's trade ministry said Wednesday that nuclear plants would be required by mid-April to deploy back-up mobile power generators and fire trucks able to pump water, while beefing up training programs and manuals.

It also said it would review energy policies to promote renewable sources and ease power shortages. However, the ministry reiterated that nuclear power was expected to retain an important role.

"As Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan has said in parliamentary debates, I think we should also put emphasis on renewable energy sources, such as solar power," Trade Minister Banri Kaieda told a news conference. "We should discuss our energy policy as a whole."

Nearly 90 percent of Japan's 54 reactors have yet to comply with upgraded 2006 safety guidelines for protection from a massive tsunami.

Kaieda said nuclear power, which accounts for 30 percent of Japan's electricity output, was an important part of its energy portfolio, and running reactors in the undamaged west was essential to secure power for overall industrial output.

Emperor consoles evacuees
As officials seek to bring an end to the nuclear crisis, hundreds of thousands in the northeast are still trying to put their lives back together following the earthquake and tsunami, which killed more than 11,000 people and left over 16,000 missing.

The government said damage is expected to cost $310 billion, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.

In the town of Rikuzentakata, one 24-year-old said she's been searching every day for a missing friend but will have to return to her job at a nursing home because she has run out of cash.

Life is far from back to normal, she said.

"Our family posted a sign in our house: Stay positive," Eri Ishikawa said, but admitted this was a struggle.

The country's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko reached out to some of the thousands displaced, spending about an hour consoling a group of evacuees at a Tokyo center.

"I couldn't talk with them very well because I was nervous, but I felt that they were really concerned about us," said Kenji Ukito, an evacuee from a region near the plant. "I was very grateful."

The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this story.

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

loading photos...
  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Map: Japan earthquake

  1. Above: Map Japan earthquake
  2. Interactive Japan before and after the disaster
  3. Image: The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan
    Ho / Reuters
    Timeline Crisis in Japan

Explainer: The 10 deadliest earthquakes in recorded history

  • A look at the worst earthquakes in recorded history, in loss of human life. (The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsumani that affected eastern Japan is not included because the fatalities caused, about 15,000, are fewer than those resulting from the temblors listed below.) Sources: United States Geological Survey, Encyclopedia Britannica

  • 1: Shensi, China, Jan. 23, 1556

    Magnitude about 8, about 830,000 deaths.

    This earthquake occurred in the Shaanxi province (formerly Shensi), China, about 50 miles east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than 830,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Damage extended as far away as about 270 miles northeast of the epicenter, with reports as far as Liuyang in Hunan, more than 500 miles away. Geological effects reported with this earthquake included ground fissures, uplift, subsidence, liquefaction and landslides. Most towns in the damage area reported city walls collapsed, most to all houses collapsed and many of the towns reported ground fissures with water gushing out.

  • 2: Tangshan, China, July 27, 1976

    Chinese Earthquake
    Keystone  /  Getty Images
    1976: Workers start rebuilding work following earthquake damage in the Chinese city of Tangshan, 100 miles east of Pekin, with a wrecked train carriage behind them. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
    Magnitude 7.5. Official casualty figure is 255,000 deaths. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000.

    Damage extended as far as Beijing. This is probably the greatest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries, and the second greatest in recorded history.

  • 3: Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 9, 1138

    Magnitude not known, about 230,000 deaths.

    Contemporary accounts said the walls of Syria’s second-largest city crumbled and rocks cascaded into the streets. Aleppo’s citadel collapsed, killing hundreds of residents. Although Aleppo was the largest community affected by the earthquake, it likely did not suffer the worst of the damage. European Crusaders had constructed a citadel at nearby Harim, which was leveled by the quake. A Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was destroyed as well, and several smaller towns and manned forts were reduced to rubble. The quake was said to have been felt as far away as Damascus, about 220 miles to the south. The Aleppo earthquake was the first of several occurring between 1138 and 1139 that devastated areas in northern Syria and western Turkey.

  • 4: Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004

    Aerial images show the extent of the devastation in Meulaboh
    Getty Images  /  Getty Images
    MEULABOH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 29: In this handout photo taken from a print via the Indonesian Air Force, the scene of devastation in Meulaboh, the town closest to the Sunday's earthquake epicentre, is pictured from the air on December 29, 2004, Meulaboh, Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The western coastal town in Aceh Province, only 60 kilometres north-east of the epicentre, has been the hardest hit by sunday's underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Officials expected to find at least 10,000 killed which would amount to a quarter of Meulaboh's population. Three-quarters of Sumatra's western coast was destroyed and some towns were totally wiped out after the tsunamis that followed the earthquake. (Photo by Indonesian Air Force via Getty Images)

    Magnitude 9.1, 227,898 deaths.

    This was the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska temblor. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.)

  • 5: Haiti, Jan 12, 2010

    Haitians walk through collapsed building
    Jean-philippe Ksiazek  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Haitians walk through collapsed buildings near the iron market in Port-au-Prince on January 31, 2010. Quake-hit Haiti will need at least a decade of painstaking reconstruction, aid chiefs and donor nations warned, as homeless, scarred survivors struggled today to rebuild their lives. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

    Magnitude 7.0. According to official estimates, 222,570 people killed.

    According to official estimates, 300,000 were also injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. This includes at least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets.

  • 6: Damghan, Iran, Dec. 22, 856

    Magnitude not known, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake struck a 200-mile stretch of northeast Iran, with the epicenter directly below the city of Demghan, which was at that point the capital city. Most of the city was destroyed as well as the neighboring areas. Approximately 200,000 people were killed.

  • 7: Haiyuan, Ningxia , China, Dec. 16, 1920

    7.8 magnitude, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake brought total destruction to the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Over 73,000 people were killed in Haiyuan County. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County. More than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. Nearly all the houses collapsed in the cities of Longde and Huining. About 125 miles of surface faulting was seen from Lijunbu through Ganyanchi to Jingtai. There were large numbers of landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area. Some rivers were dammed, others changed course.

  • 8: Ardabil, Iran, March. 23, 893

    Magnitude not known, about 150,000 deaths

    The memories of the massive Damghan earthquake (see above) had barely faded when only 37 years later, Iran was again hit by a huge earthquake. This time it cost 150,000 lives and destroyed the largest city in the northwestern section of the country. The area was again hit by a fatal earthquake in 1997.

  • 9: Kanto, Japan, Sept. 1, 1923

    Kanto Damage
    Hulton Archive  /  Getty Images
    1923: High-angle view of earthquake and fire damage on Hongokucho Street and the Kanda District, taken from the Yamaguchi Bank building after the Kanto earthquake, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
    7.9 magnitude, 142,800 deaths.

    This earthquake brought extreme destruction in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, both from the temblor and subsequent firestorms, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed. Although often known as the Great Tokyo Earthquake (or the Great Tokyo Fire), the damage was most severe in Yokohama. Nearly 6 feet of permanent uplift was observed on the north shore of Sagami Bay and horizontal displacements of as much as 15 feet were measured on the Boso Peninsula.

  • 10: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 5, 1948

    7.3 magnitude, 110,000 deaths.

    This quake brought extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all the brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area in neighboring Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release from the newly independent government on Dec. 9, 1988, advised that the correct death toll was 110,000. (Turkmenistan had been part of the Soviet Union, which tended to downplay the death tolls from man-made and natural disasters.)

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments