Japan live blog: Radiation burns may be like 'sunburn,' expert says
A worker puts a destroyed car into a truck during clean-up operations in Sendai, Japan, on Friday.
March 25th, 2011
11:42 PM ET

Japan live blog: Radiation burns may be like 'sunburn,' expert says

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northern Japan on March 11, triggering tsunamis that caused widespread devastation and crippled a nuclear power plant. Are you in an affected area? Send an iReport. Read the full report on the quake's aftermath and check out our interactive explainer on Japan's damaged nuclear reactors.

[11:41 p.m. ET Friday, 12:41 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Tests showed that levels of radioactive iodine in seawater just offshore of the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are more than 1,250 times higher than normal, Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency said Saturday.

Similarly high levels of radiation had been detected in the same locales in recent days, though the latest readings indicate a notable increase. These high levels suggest there may have been some sort of leakage directly into the ocean - unlikely to be because of atmosphere emissions or rain alone, said an official with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the nuclear plant.

But an official with Japan's nuclear safety agency told reporters Saturday that - while drinking such water would be dangerous, given the radiation's potential to cause cancer - the effect on aquatic life in the Pacific Ocean may be relatively minimal. That's because the radiation tends to dilute the further one moves away from the nuclear plant. Data posted on Japan's education and science ministry's website showed relatively small amounts of radioactive particles several kilometers offshore.

[10:07 p.m. ET Friday, 11:07 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Tokyo Electric Power Co. is preparing to inject fresh water into the No. 2 reactor core at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to enhance cooling efficiency after highly radioactive water was found leaking near all four troubled reactor units at the plant, Kyodo News reports. The utility will try to remove pools of water containing highly concentrated radioactive substances that may have seeped from either the reactor cores or spent fuel pools, while also trying to restore power at the No. 2 reactor.

[7:38 p.m. ET Friday, 8:38 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] The Japan National Police Agency reports 10,102 people are confirmed dead as of Friday. The agency said it has received reports of 17,053 people missing.

[5:54 p.m. ET Friday, 6:54 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] You can see the survivors making the choice as they walk through the debris-strewn main street of Otsuchi in Japan - stay or go?

Some amble along as if in a daze, trying to comprehend the present and match it with an uncertain future. Others look like tourists, coolly trying to place a cousin's house or a grandmother's garden.

But the dilemma is the same for them all: do you stay and rebuild in a devastated small town, struggling economically even before the tsunami, or pull up stakes and start anew in a big city?

[12:37 p.m. ET Friday, 1:37 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] The Japanese government is considering instituting daylight-saving time or electricity price increases as options to conserve power during summer months when demand may outstrip supply, the Japan Times reported early Saturday. The measures are being considered to make up for the loss of two nuclear power plants damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

[11:34 a.m. ET Friday, 12:34 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Three men working near the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Thursday stepped into water that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for a nuclear plant, a Japanese government official said Friday, but nuclear experts said the burns suffered by the workers may not amount to much more than a sunburn.

Beta rays given off by radioactive substances don't penetrate deeply into materials, including flesh, said Nolan Hertel, a professor nuclear engineering at Georgia Tech. Consequently, the danger is relatively limited, he said. "Basically, a beta burn would be akin to a bad sunburn," he said.

[11:28 a.m. ET Friday, 12:28 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Three of every five survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami say they are unable or unwilling to return to their homes, according to a survey by broadcaster NHK, which polled 488 people staying in shelters in the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.

[11:04 a.m. ET Friday, 12:04 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] As Japanese suppliers scramble to come back on line after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Ford Motor Co. is asking its dealers to order trucks and SUVs in any color but black, CNNMoney reports.

Specifically, Ford is asking dealers not to order any new full-size pick-ups or SUVs in so-called Tuxedo Black because of a problem getting a paint ingredient from a supplier in Japan. The automaker is also scaling back, but not stopping, its use of Tuxedo Black on mid-sized SUVs and the large Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans.

Red's a problem, too. Ford is scaling back three shades of red on SuperDuty and Ranger trucks, Focus compact cars, Econoline vans and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

"To be clear, though, all these vehicles and colors are available now," Ford spokesman Todd Nissen said in an email. "We have adequate inventories on dealer lots to meet consumer demand."

[10:26 a.m. ET Friday, 11:26 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] The death toll from the March 11 quake and tsunami was at 10,102 as of 11 p.m. Friday, according to Japan National Police Agency figures cited by Kyodo News. The number of missing was put at 17,053. More than 240,000 people were in 1,900 evacuation shelters, Kyodo reported.

[10:12 a.m. ET Friday, 11:12 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Japan's national soccer team may not be able to participate in a prestigious tournament in South America during the summer because the earthquake and tsunami postponed domestic league games until July, Kyodo News reports. The Japanese national squad was scheduled to participate in the Copa America in Argentina in July. But five rounds of domestic league games have been rescheduled for that time, Japan Football Association technical director Hiromi Hara told Kyodo, and some clubs do not want to release their players for the international tournament.

[9:37 a.m. ET Friday, 10:37 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Japanese automakers say they've lost production of more than 300,000 vehicles since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, broadcaster NHK reports.

[9:02 a.m. ET Friday, 10:02 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Smokers in Japan may have trouble finding their favorite brands in the coming weeks after Japan Tobacco Inc., the nation's leading cigarette supplier, said Friday it will be suspending shipments of its products between March 30 and April 10. During that time, the company said in a statement, it will concentrate on producing enough inventory to satisfy demand for its 25 key products using factories in western Japan. The company says several of its factories and distribution facilities were damaged in the March 11 quake off the east coast of the main island of Honshu.

The company says about 37 percent of Japanese men smoke and 12 percent of women, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report from August.

[8:12 a.m. ET Friday, 9:12 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday that the situation at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant "still does not warrant optimism," according to a Kyodo News report.

[8:05 a.m. ET Friday, 9:05 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck off the coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu Friday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was 67 miles (108 kilometers) east-northeast of Sendai at a depth of about 24 miles, according to a preliminary USGS report.

[7:30 a.m. ET Friday, 8:30 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] China and South Korea on Friday temporarily banned food imports from areas of Japan near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

China is stopping imports of dairy, fruit, vegetables and aquatic animals from five prefectures, according to a report from the Xinhua news agency.

South Korea is not allowing imports of spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and milk from four prefectures, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Neither country said how long the bans would remain in effect, according to the reports.

[7:06 a.m. ET Friday, 8:06 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Two Japanese citizens - one from Nagano and the other from Saitama, both 200 kilometers or further from Fukushima - traveling to China were taken to a hospital after showing exceedingly high levels of radiation, China's  state-run Xinhua news agency reported. A spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in China said Friday that the two are "fine" having left the hospital and joined their tour group.

[6:53 a.m. ET Friday, 7:53 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] A 40-story, 700-room Tokyo hotel scheduled for closure and demolition will remain open through June to house evacuees from Fukushima prefecture, the Japan Times reported Friday.

The iconic 55-year-old Grand Prince Akasaka Hotel was a trendy place for dates in the 1980s, but business had fallen off with increased competition from international hotel chains in the area, reports said.

Now it will house as many as 1,600 evacuees from the earthquake, tsumani and radiation leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

How to secure a room and possible costs have yet to be determined, but there has been a flood of requests for space, Kyodo News reports.

[5:33 a.m. ET Friday, 6:33 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Tokyo Electric Power said Friday that warm summer weather and demands for air conditioning will make rolling blackouts necessary in July, Kyodo News reports. Peak demand in July will be about 55 million kilowatts but the utility expects to have a capacity of only 46.5 million kilowatts, according to the report. The company said rolling blackouts it instituted on March 14 are expected to continue through April. It expects to restore some capacity in the coming months, but not enough to meet demand during the heat of July, according to the report.

[4:42 a.m. ET Friday, 5:42 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Tap water tested at four sites in Japan's Ibaraki prefecture all showed radiation levels above what is considered safe for babies to drink, according to government data released Friday.

The pertinent facilities provide water for residents in the cities of Tokaimura and Hitachi. The results, from samples taken on Thursday, showed between a low of 119 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of water to a high of 230 becquerels of the same radioactive substance.

Any level above 100 becquerels is not considered safe for infants 1-year old and younger to drink, according to the Japanese government. Still, all are below the 300-becquerel limit for all adults.

[4:10 a.m. ET Friday, 5:10 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] The levels of radioactive iodine in Tokyo's tap water dropped again Friday, with similarly positive results being seen in tests of water treatment facilities in Chiba prefecture.

Samples of Tokyo's tap water taken at 6 a.m. Friday showed 51 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of water, the city waterworks bureau reported on its website. Any level above 100 becquerels is not considered safe for infants 1-year old and younger to drink.

On Tuesday night, samples had 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine - prompting a government decision, later reversed, to urge parents not to give tap water to babies.

There was also positive news on this front Friday in the Chiba prefecture, where all five water treatment facilities had levels of radioactive iodine less than 100 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of tap water.

The previous day, the Chiba Nogiko water treatment plant had a measure of 220 becquerels , while the Kuriyama facility had a reading of 180 becquerels, according to a statement from Chiba's waterworks bureau. These two plants provide water for the city of Matsudo, about 20 miles northeast of Tokyo.

[3:07 a.m. ET Friday, 4:07 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] Water contamination in unit No. 3 basement, which exposed three  men working at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear  power plant to 10,000 times the amount of  radiation typical for that locale, is likely from the reactor core, an official with the Japan nuclear and industrial  safety agency said Friday.

He said there's a possibility of "some sort of leakage" - including potentially from a crack in the unit's containment vessel.

The incident raised questions about radiation control measures at the plant as 536 people - including government authorities and firefighters continued working there Friday, according to an official with the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

[2:20 a.m. ET Friday, 3:20 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] A U.S. military ship is heading toward the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant with fresh water to help cool down the facility's nuclear fuel, the Japanese defense minister said Friday.

The ship is a backup for Japanese systems addressing the same problem, said Toshimi Kitazawa, the defense minister.

[1:15 a.m. ET Friday, 2:15 p.m. Friday in Tokyo] A Japanese  official described the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis as a  "difficult" situation, and said the government will provide transportation to  those seeking to evacuate within 30 kilometers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said authorities will provide transportation in response to growing demand among those living between 20 and 30 kilometers hoping to get farther away from the stricken plant.

[10:49 p.m. ET Thursday, 11:49 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] The death toll from this month's earthquake and subsequent tsunami has now topped 10,000 people, Japan's National Police Agency said.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Japan • World
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. L64

    Oh good grief.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • MonsterKok11inches

      hi da,baby
      u get 11 inches of uber thick meat in ur mouth?
      let me know asap!
      we chat!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Amygadalus communis

    Daniel 6:22-23

    "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you."
    Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. BATMAN

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^I'M BATMAN^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    March 26, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Reader

    What is going on with everyone , @ batman u idiot , no your a waste of my time

    March 26, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. radiation

    Radiation is like a sunburn. It is just like a chemical imbalance. It is a very dangerous for human beings.

    March 26, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. pavan

    Radiation is very harmful for us. It may be a chemical imbalance. If it is a chemical imbalance then it is very harmful for human beings. It may cause for many diseases as cancer.
    &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
    radiation

    March 26, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Amygadalus communis

    I am in agreement.

    March 26, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. Col. Bat Guano

    From my experience, radiation is akin to vaseline. Only it's orange.

    March 26, 2011 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Amygadalus communis

    Coming with Authority
    2 Corinthians 13:1-6
    This will be the third time I am coming to you. "By mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."
    I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare-since you seek proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
    For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
    Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indees you are disqualified.
    But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

    We are One. It's that simple.

    March 26, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Iowa

    The FDA does *not* 'screen all food', just a small statistical sample.

    March 26, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Iowa

    Consider for a minute the toxicity of Caesium-137:.

    (from the wikipedia): "Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi/kg (approx. 44 μg/kg of Caesium-137) is lethal within three weeks."

    It is well known that Caesium-137 mimics potassium in the body, concentrates in the food chain, and lasts for decades.

    Ingesting radioactive particles is not like getting a 'sunburn' or a 'chest x-ray'.

    March 26, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Iowa

    (1) the FDA does *not* 'screen all food', just a small statistical sample. A blatant lie.

    (2) Consider for a minute the toxicity of Caesium-137.

    (from the wikipedia): "Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi/kg (approx. 44 μg/kg of Caesium-137) is lethal within three weeks."

    Caesium-137 mimics potassium in the body, concentrates in the food chain, and lasts for decades.

    Ingesting radioactive particles is not like getting a 'sunburn' or a 'chest x-ray'. And, inaccurate information like this leads to pervasive distrust of your reporting..

    We need monitoring and accurate information - not PR spin.

    March 26, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. RUFFNUTT

    they need to wear tinfoil suits.. or drink some suntan lotion..

    March 26, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. L64

    Isn't congress wanting to cut food inspection as part of its budget overhaul? What timing!

    March 26, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. Angela

    Two things: 1) Could the plant workers try altered space suits to protect themselves? Space suits must protect astronauts from solar radiation to some extent and I would guess may be more protective than regular nuclear plant suits...? And they may be too heavy with Earth's gravity but they could be altered. 2) Why not send in robots fitted with cameras and testing equipment to go where the radiation levels are too high? This way they could find where the breeches may be while not risking human life.

    March 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
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