BY TRACY PFEIFFER
ANCHOR: CHRISTINA HARTMAN
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A week after the devastating earthquake that rocked Japan, workers are still struggling to get the country’s nuclear crisis under control. Japan’s nuclear agency has upgraded the situation from a four to a five on a 7-level scale, bringing the catastrophe on par with the 1979 Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania.
New aerial footage from a military helicopter paints a grim picture of the extent of the damage to Japan’s Fukushima reactor, which has seen multiple explosions since the quake and consequent tsunamis. (Video: The Telegraph)
The chopper itself was part of an initial tactic in the fight to keep spent nuclear rods from overheating, utilizing a water dumping technique commonly used to fight forest fires -- but strong winds quickly nixed that idea.
“Now the focus of the efforts by emergency workers has shifted away from airborne spraying to ground level and a more extensive use of these firetrucks to try to cool and restore power to the reactors. The aim is to get water back into the pools that house spent nuclear fool rods and avert a major radiation leak.” (BBC)
Even though the situation has been upgraded to level 5 -- defined by the IAEA as a quote -- “accident with wider consequences” -- Japanese officials say it’s due to new information about damage already done, not the current situation. (IAEA)
And Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano assures the international community, their efforts are keeping the reactors stable at least.
YUKIO EDANO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (TRANSLATION): “As for reactor number 4, the situation is not as serious as reactors number 2 and 3, but we need to keep adding water to cool them, and be prepared. This is important.”
Meanwhile, another high priority goal is to restore power to the plant, which would enable crews to restart generators that power the reactor’s cooling systems. (Video: BBC)
The International Atomic Energy Agency says a half-mile power cord has been laid to Fukushima’s reactor number 2 building. But retired nuclear engineer Lake Barrett tells The Washington Post, it won’t be as simple as plugging in a cord.
“‘Existing cabling is probably burned,’ Barrett said, meaning crews in bulky radiation suits will have to engineer a high-voltage solution on the fly by boring through thick outer walls and connecting car-size electrical switches and relays.”
And while the world watches the battle against further nuclear catastrophe, NBC’s Ann Curry reports -- Japan is a country on edge.
ANN CURRY, REPORTER: “Passport centers around the country are full, train stations mobbed. Airlines are scrambling to fly thousands of people out of Tokyo. ... Crowds flocked aboard buses out of Sendai, a city hard-hit by the quake and tsunami, now low on basic necessities. Confusion, anger, and distrust are spreading despite the government’s reassurances about the risks of radiation.”
Experts say for now, wind currents are reportedly driving radiation away from Tokyo, Japan’s most-populated city. But a reporter from Global Radio News tells Fox News, those inside the city have been wary of exposure risks.
GAVIN BLAIR, REPORTER, GLOBAL RADIO NEWS: “Apparently the staff at the Italian embassy there weren’t trustful of the Japanese government’s pronouncements and took a Geiger counter onto the roof themselves and found that the levels of radiation were actually a fifth of what they were in Rome. So while there has been some panic in Tokyo, levels are back to normal there.”
Japan’s National Police Agency has raised the death toll to almost 7,000, and more than 10,000 are still listed as missing. ABC Australia reports there are currently around half a million people living in shelters.
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