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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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BY ERIK SHUTE AND HARUMENDHAH HELMY
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This is Newsy Now and here are the headlines you need to know.
In Japan — workers of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant have once again been removed from the site. CNN reports more smoke caused the evacuation.
“We did get off the phone from Tepco just minutes ago, and they have confirmed that smoke, blackish smoke is rising from Reactor No. 3. They say something is burning, they just don’t know what it is.”
Radiation levels in Tokyo’s tap water have now been deemed unfit for infants.
Still in world news — clashes between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces continue in the Libyan cities of Misurata, Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The ever-defiant leader Muammar Gaddafi appeared on Libya’s national TV yesterday, vowing victory to his supporters. But, as the BBC reports, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says people close to his regime might have other ideas.
Dominic Kane, BBC: “In an address that was apparently live in Tripoli on Tuesday night, his message to his supporters was unrepentant.
Muammar Gaddafi: “I am defiant, my home is here. I am here, I am here, I am here.”
Dominic Kane: “But even as he was speaking these words, on American TV came the suggestion that perhaps the Gaddafi regime is now trying to explore its options internationally.”
Clinton: “I’m not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out.”
Still in the Middle East — tension is in Gaza, as Israel launched air strikes on Gaza City early Wednesday. This -- the latest in a string of clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian groups.
Today’s attack came after a Palestinian rocket fired into Southern Israel on Tuesday. That attack was a response to Israeli mortar fire on Monday which killed four Palestinians. According to the New York Times, the group Hamas has fired more than 60 mortar shells and rockets at Israel since Saturday. Israeli warplanes have also carried multiple attacks.
In the tech world -- Blackberry is ready to go head-to-head with Apple in the tablet market. The smart phone maker plans to release its Playbook tablet at a base price of $499 -- the same as Apple’s iPad. WJBK looks at the competition.
“Well, Wall Street is saying that this would be the closest thing yet to the iPad killer if there is ever such a thing … the price points are largely the same. 499 to 699 on both devices depending on the size that you get. The sales expectations, widely different. At the high point, 4 million playbooks may be sold this year, compared to 30 million iPads."
In entertainment -- Chris Brown has a new album and, it appears, a new set of anger issues. On ABC’s Good Morning America, Robin Roberts probed the R&B star about his altercation with ex-girlfriend Rihanna two years ago. After answering the questions and performing on the show, he stormed off set and trashed a GMA dressing room. Slate has more.
“After the taping, Brown broke a window in his dressing room. When confronted by one of the show’s producers, Chris removed his shirt, then left skipping a planned second performance on the show. Just to cap things off Brown tweeted ‘I’m so over people bringing this past [expletive] up. Yet we praise Charlie Sheen and other celebs for their [expletive].’”
MTV reports Brown approved the questions about the Rihanna incident before the interview with Roberts -- who insists she did not try to antagonize Brown. She says she’s “pulling for the guy.”
Stay with Newsy**** for more analyses on news throughout the day. For Newsy Now, I’m Jim Flink -- highlighting the top headlines making you smarter, faster.
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BY CHRISTINE SLUSSER
ANCHOR: CHRISTINA HARTMAN
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The death toll from the deadly tsunami and earthquakes in Japan has already topped 10,000, and there have been reports of high radiation levels surrounding the damaged Fukushima power plant as well.
While it’s still unclear how it happened, three workers were exposed to water containing iodine, caesium and cobalt that was 10,000 times the normal level while replacing a cable inside the plant. The injuries and high levels of radiation point to potential damage to a fuel rod. (Video: MSNBC) (Information: The Telegraph, Japan Times)
There have been no reports indicating water level radiation that high outside the plant. CTV takes a closer look at what happened to the workers.
CHRIS JOHNSON: “...and apparently their images are what they’re calling beta ray burns, people in Japan have never even heard that word before.”
...but The Guardian translated a message from a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman, who seemed to be pointing a finger at the nuclear workers themselves, saying it was their fault for not following proper dress code.
HIDEHIKO NISHIYAMA, TRANSLATED, ANCHOR MAY READ: “If they had followed the proper rules set out by the previous survey, they would have had better attire. Specifically there was a problem when you think of how they got water in their shoes. Also, they continued to work even though their dosimeter alarms were going off, though there may have been a misunderstanding.”
Japan Times reports puddles of contaminated water were also found in the turbine buildings of reactors 1 and 2, and says the worsening state of the nuclear reactors could drive the government to take more action.
“There are now indications that the government will raise the crisis level for the event, now at 5, to level 6, putting it above the Three Mile Island incident. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster tops the international scale at level 7.”
All of the nuclear destruction has caused some Japanese people to take to the streets, something that, as BBC reports, doesn’t happen often.
“In central Tokyo, a tiny group of protesters is gathered outside the grand headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power. Passing commuters take little notice of them, even now few Japanese are willing to publicly challenge huge corporations, like TEPCO.”
Al Jazeera focuses more on what’s being done to prevent further nuclear mishaps, and highlights a major change in a cooling technique.
WAYNE HAY: “...but now they are concerned that the salt from the sea water may be encrusting on the fuel rods themselves, therefore rendering the cooling situation useless, so they are now pumping fresh water into those reactors.”
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Prypiat (Ukrainian: При́п'ять, Pryp'jat’; Russian: При́пять, Pripjat’ is an abandoned city in the Zone of alienation in northern Ukraine, Kiev Oblast, near the border with Belarus. It was home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers. The city was abandoned in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster. Its population had been around 50,000.
A natural concern is whether it is safe to visit Prypiat and the surrounding area. The Exclusion Zone is considered relatively safe to visit, and several Ukrainian companies offer guided tours of the area. The radiation levels have decreased from the high levels of April 1986 due to the decay of the shortlived isotopes released in the accident.
The city was evacuated in 1986 due to the Chernobyl disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which is located 10.85 kilometers (9 miles) north-northwest. The power plant was named after the city, and located in Chernobyl Raion (district), but the city was not the residence of the power plant workers. At the time of the construction, a twin city of Chernobyl, Prypiat, was built to be close to the plant for workers.
Though the city is today mostly uninhabited, a small number of inhabitants reside in houses marked with signs stating that the "Owner of this house lives here". Workers on watch and administrative personnel of the Zone of Alienation are stationed in the city on a long term basis. Prior to its evacuation, the city was inhabited by about 55000 residents.