A Japanese government report Monday heaped fresh criticism on the operator of the nuclear power plant where a disastrous accident was set off last year by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.
The measures taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, and the Japanese nuclear regulator to prepare for disasters were "insufficient," the report by a government-formed panel of investigators said, and the response to the crisis was "inadequate."
The crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
Even now, more than one year after the disaster began, TEPCO doesn't seem to be making much effort to clearly investigate the causes of the accident at the plant, the 10-member panel, led by Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, said in the report Monday.FULL STORY
A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Monday off the third-largest island in the Philippines, prompting the country to issue a tsunami alert for the coastlines near the epicenter.
The quake struck about 11:49 a.m. (10:49 p.m. Sunday ET) about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the coastal city of Dumaguete on the Philippine island of Negros, the USGS said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a level 2 tsunami alert for areas along the Tanon Strait between Negros and the neighboring island of Cebu.
That's a notch below the highest tsunami alert of level 3, which requires evacuation of the affected areas, a spokeswoman for the institute said.
She said the institute was advising people to watch out for unusual waves and to stay away from the shoreline.
No tsunami warning was issued for the wider Pacific region and there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.FULL STORY
Gravel quarried inside Japan's Fukushima nuclear evacuation zone has turned up in construction projects in the city of Nihonmatsu, including an elementary school and a condominium, according to Japanese media reports.
The Mainichi Daily News, citing government investigators, reports Thursday that the radioactive gravel has been shipped to more than 200 companies and may be in everything from bridges to homes for evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster left more than 15,000 people dead and damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, causing radiation leaks when three nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns.
The government established a 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the damaged plant on April 22. The suspect construction material came from a quarry in Namie, within the evacuation zone, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. But it was originally shipped to 19 companies between the time of the quake and the establishment of the zone, according to a Mainichi report.
[Updated at 4:27 p.m. Tuesday ET] A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the western coast of western Indonesia's Sumatra island early Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, but witnesses reported only minor shaking on land.
The quake, which happened at 12:37 a.m. local time (1:37 p.m. Tuesday ET) at a depth of 18.1 miles, was centered in the Indian Ocean about 262 miles southwest of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, and 590 miles west of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the USGS said.
Indonesian authorities issued a tsunami warning for the area, but the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a massive wave like the one that devastated the region in 2004.
There were no immediate reports of damage, and hotel clerks contacted by CNN reported only mild shaking. One front desk clerk in Aceh said a few hotel guests went outside when the quake hit, but most weren't awakened.
In December 2004, Indonesia and a number of other countries were hard hit by a tsunami generated by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off northern Sumatra. The tsunami and earthquake killed more than 280,000 people in 14 countries - mainly India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Indonesian region of Banda Aceh was hard-hit: About 150,000 died there.FULL STORY
After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off Japan damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, the Japanese government was presented with a scenario which would have required the evacuation of half of Tokyo and the entire width of the main island of Honshu, former Prime Minister Naota Kan says in an interview with Kyodo News.
The evacuation zone would have covered all areas within 200 to 250 kilometers (125 to 155 miles) of the nuclear reactor, meaning about 30 million people in Tokyo and its surrounding areas would have needed to be moved, according to the Kyodo report in The Japan Times.
Kan said he feared such an evacuation would have resulted in chaos, according to the report.
"I wasn't sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state," he is quoted as saying.
Kan also said Japan was not prepared for the disaster resulting from the 9.0-magnitude quake.
"We had never foreseen a situation in which a quake, tsunami and a nuclear plant accident would all happen at the same time," he is quoted as saying.
Kan resigned in August after widespread criticism of how his government handled the aftermath of the quake. His approval rating plummeted.
As of early September, more than 75,000 residents who live within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the crippled nuclear plant were still unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels.
Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, has said he hopes to achieve the second phase of a cold shutdown of the plant before a January deadline.
The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn't moved in 46 years, scientists say.
Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.
It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.
The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.
"In the past we've had calving events where we've looked for the source. It's a reverse scenario – we see a calving and we go looking for a source," Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. "We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history – we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source."
Three things you need to know today.
Hatch closed – At 9:19 a.m. ET on Monday, the hatch between the space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will be closed for the final time and the shuttle will prepare for a return to Earth.
Tomorrow, the shuttle will undock from the station and fly around it so visual inspections of both the space station and the shuttle's thermal protection system can be performed.
Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:06 a.m. on Wednesday, bringing an end to three decades of space shuttle flight.
Hot temperatures – A heat wave will continue to roast the country's midsection even as it spreads to the east, according to the National Weather Service.
The hottest spots from Oklahoma through South Dakota should see highs of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and top temperatures are forecast in the 90s for most of the rest of the country - with the exception of some mountain and coastal regions, according to the weather service.
On Sunday, daily temperature records were broken from Alpena, Michigan, south to Miami, Florida.
"Heat index values" - how hot it feels outside - have been running over 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the worst-hit areas, the National Weather Service said. The scale designed to describe how intense heat feels also includes factors such as humidity.
Japan typhoon – Workers in Japan scrambled Monday to build a protective covering over a damaged nuclear reactor ahead of an approaching powerful typhoon, an energy company spokesman said.
Typhoon Ma-on should strike Japan well south of the damaged No. 3 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
But the Tokyo Power Company, which is responsible for the plant wracked by the March 11 tsunami that struck northeast Japan, is constructing a "roof-like structure to prevent rain from entering holes on the turbine building," spokesman Satoshi Watanabe said.
The energy company says it aims to complete construction late Monday.
Four months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, operators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are still grappling with the crisis the disaster unleashed but say they are making slow progress.
Despite periodic setbacks - including a water leak that shut down operations for several hours Sunday - the Tokyo Electric Power Company has managed to set up a decontamination system that filters radioactive material from the water.
Some of the treated water is now being circulated back through the reactors, a key step toward keeping the reactors' melted nuclear cores cool on a permanent basis.FULL STORY
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning Wednesday for Kermadec Island, Tonga and New Zealand after a tsunami was detected following a major earthquake nearby.
The warning was issued after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 shook the Kermadec Islands at 7:03 a.m. Thursday (3:03 p.m. ET Wednesday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was centered 160 kilometers (99 miles) east of Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands, and 914 kilometers (568 miles) south of Tuku'alofa, Tonga, the survey said.
"Sea level readings confirm that a tsunami was generated," the center said. "This tsunami may have been destructive along coastlines of the region near the earthquake epicenter."FULL STORY
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 struck off the Pacific Coast of northern Japan early Thursday, Japanese and U.S. seismologists reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that a tsunami could be generated by the temblor, but canceled the warning less than an hour after the quake.FULL STORY
The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released dramatic tsunami images on its website, as a nuclear expert slammed comparisons between the Japan nuclear disaster and Chernobyl.
The photos, which are available on TEPCO's website, show the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant barreling toward the facility before inundating it with water.
The news came as the power company continued to issue press releases reporting radiation in the groundwater and seawater around the plant. It also came two days after the company said it learned that a pressure vessel in reactor No. 1 may be leaking and that the reactor's fuel rods almost melted completely hours after the tsunami hit.
A U.S. physicist said, if accurate, the revelations would indicate a "very, very bad accident" that would be difficult to clean up.
A Taiwanese man is predicting that a massive earthquake will strike Taiwan on Wednesday morning, killing more than a million people, but an official with the country's National Science Council says there's no indication of any seismic movements.
The self-proclaimed prophet, a blogger who calls himself Teacher Wang, has predicted that a 14-magnitude quake will strike the island at 10:42:37 a.m. local time Wednesday. It will be followed by a massive tsunami more than 550 feet (170 meters) high on May 17, Wang has said, according to news reports from Taiwan.
"The final countdown has started," the prophet, whose real name is Wang Chao-hung, told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday, according to a report in the Straits Times.
The dual catastrophes will "rip the island in half," Wang has said, according to a report on Focus Taiwan.
Congress is on a two-week recess, but that doesn't mean news is lacking from Washington. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the government spending fight in Washington.
Today's programming highlights...
12:00 pm ET - White House briefing – The battle over government spending is expected to top Press Secretary Jay Carney's agenda with the White House press corps, along with the situations in Japan and Libya.
1:45 pm ET - Obama honors Air Force football – President Obama takes a brief break from the bruising budget battle to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team. The trophy is awarded annually to the best service academy football team.
CNN.com Live is your home for breaking news as it happens.
The budget battle continues in Washington as President Obama and Congress consider spending cuts and the debt ceiling. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of this developing story.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - Natural gas drilling hearing - Two Senate environment subcommittees consider natural gas drilling and its impact on public health and the environment.
It's been a month since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked Japan, leaving more than 27,000 people dead or missing. From decimated towns that are far from recovery to the delicate reminders of how life used to be, today's Gotta Watch focuses on life in Japan one month after the crisis began.
Anatomy of a ghost town – It looks like any other town, except for one thing. It's devoid of life. Earthquake and tsunami damage forced so many residents from their homes. All that's left are the subtle signs of a hasty retreats and elevated radiation levels.
One budget battle appears to be over, but two more economic fights are coming to a head. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the economic conflict in Washington.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Wartime contracting hearing - The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan meets to discuss whether the federal government can learn from non-governmental organization in creating more effective and less costly federal contracting.
[Update 12:06 p.m. ET, 1:06 a.m. Friday in Japan] The tsunami warning and advisories for Japan have been lifted, public broadcaster NHK reported.
[Update 11:20 a.m. ET, 12:20 a.m. Friday in Japan] Workers evacuated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following an earthquake Thursday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. TEPCO has communication with the plant and the power is still on. There were no immediate reports of damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey downgraded the magnitude of the latest Japan earthquake to 7.1; the quake had been given a preliminary magnitude of 7.4.
[Posted 10:57 a.m. ET, 11:57 p.m. in Japan] A magnitude-7.4 earthquake struck Japan on Thursday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The epicenter was off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture.
Public broadcaster NHK reported a tsunami warning for Miyagi, saying people in the area should evacuate from the shore to a safe place.
NHK also reported a tsunami advisory for Iwate Prefecture, saying a tsunami is expected to arrive in coastal regions there as well.FULL STORY
The battle over the federal budget is dominating the talk in Washington today. CNN.com Live is there for all the latest developments.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - House budget debate - House lawmakers will be focusing on the budget this morning when they resume their session on Capitol Hill. Senate debate resumes at 10:00 am ET.
The budget battle continues on Capitol Hill, while the situation in Japan takes center stage at a Capitol Hill hearing. CNN.com Live will be there with all the latest developments.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Japan nuclear crisis hearing - A House energy subcommittee takes a closer look at the U.S. government's response to the ongoing situation in Japan.