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. gatorgator

    Dont give up!!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Amygadalus communis


      March 25, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pardeep Banga

    Stay strong, and yes DON'T GIVE UP !!!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryttni

      I really hope things improve for those people.They'be had enough.

      March 25, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. jack

    i'm sorry but if 7 tons of water from a helicopter (when 300 missions were planned...ie 2100 tons) then i highly doubt whatever amount of water is being brought in will be helpful at all.

    March 25, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryttni

      I agree. I think they need to branch away from the water idea. Time for new ideas, because apparently the water is not working very effectively.

      March 25, 2011 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Hawg

      I am left wondering about the run off of the water. It has to be going down drains or seeping in the ground, which will further contaminant tap water in wells or from water plants.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mac

    I don't get it. Its right next to an ocean. Just get one of the sea borne fire fighting ships to hose the reactor down.

    March 25, 2011 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
    • zach

      but that water would be exposed to A LOT of radiation and will circulate back to the ocean and make the ocean radiation worse

      March 25, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. bbarc

    I heard the salt that is left on the equipment has unknown effects. There is the possibilty that the salt, left aswaste, may make cooling attempts under normal conditions ineffective. I Hope the scientists are wrong. It will be devestating if that's the case.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
    • htfish

      And there's an equal possibility it won't do anything at all. Unknown effects are just that, unknown. Don't participate in fear mongering.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. freedom

    This is very bad, plutonium is in this reactor. THIS IS VERY BAD!

    March 25, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. cytwo

    Thus far, news reports on the nuclear reactors have mostly been about 'containment' and restoring power. What is going to be the plan a bit further down the road no one has been saying or giving indication. Are they going to keep the many fuel rods there, both the spent ones and the active, at Fukushima, and manage them however they would or are they going to try to transport them out? Can they transport them out is a question since they appear not to do that with the spent rods in the first place. With the plants themselves blown-out mangled steel boxes are they still in good enough shape to warehouse the fuel rods without the overheating and emission of radiation? Has a lot of the nuclear fuel already burned off or is there still a lot more left that can still go into the atmosphere if they do not maintain continuous efforts to cool the rods and reactors? How much longer can workers rotate shifts before all start to get overexposure and then what? Are those water cannon fire trucks at some point gonna start to glow in the dark? These are questions I would wish to hear news about, to be informed about something that is serious to our whole entire planet and not just hear all that continuous noise from the Middle East.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. john

    I don't know why they just haven't filled them with cement already?!?!?!

    March 25, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
    • zach

      right now theres to much heat and the rocks in the cement would actually turn to molten

      March 25, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Kell


      The heat generated from the reactors and spent fuel can not "melt" the rocks even if they were covered in cement. The reaction has already ended, and we are only dealing with the waste heat. Rocks melt between 600-1600C (depending on the rock), and the reactors right now are around 400C. The issue with simply dumping concrete on it is that the water in the concrete mixture will boil, causing it to crack. It isn't because the rocks will melt.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      Covering with cement is the absolute worst thing to do and the idea should be squashed immediately. Cement would greatly reduce the ability to remove heat from the decaying reactor fuel and make melting even easier. Also, cement near alpha radiation tends to spall util it is just sand. The reactors in Chernobyl suffer from massive amounts of radioactive dust from the spalling of the concrete that they used. The structure of Chernobyl needs to be replaced by the removal of the dust from the concrete is a problem currently preventing necessary repairs.

      March 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • cytwo

      If, as a 'last resort' you cannot rock-cement-boron-sarcophagus this thing up, and if they have some 'leak' that they don't know if its part of the plumbing or the actual thing itself that holds the rods, where because of the heat and radiation is unaccessible .. hate to think this .. but then there appears the possibility of a 'full' meltdown taking place. Now, if that happens at even one of the six reactors, what are the radiation levels going to be throughout the entire Fukushima complex? Will people and trucks still be able to work on site? If not, all you have then are just the helicopters. So what ever nuke fuel remains in all of the six reactors, worse case scenario, will continue to heat and burn unabated (copter dousing is at best only stop-gap measure). That then may mean potentially all six reactors could go the full scale meltdown, all the radiation burns off into the atmosphere and down into the ground, and then its over. This would be the worse way for it to end. For now, I would certainly like to hear some less cataclysmic possible alternatives for how this thing can resolve, e.g. something similar to the option of the 'drilling of a relief well' that was possible in the Gulf, something doable that averts the all-out meltdown.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    why haven't they filled them with cement and just end any threat of leakage and move on?!?

    March 25, 2011 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Cement needs relatively normal temperatures to cure. The cores are too hot and the cement will not properly set, so it will just add to the problem, not help it. And look at the cement sarcophogus made for Chernobyl – it was hastily made, has cracked and now there is a multi-billion dollar effort to build a confinement arch over the whole thing.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. minivanhalen

    "Containment vessel." You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
    • ?

      What do YOU think it means?

      March 25, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Vizzini


      March 25, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Hawg

      A containment "casket" can be used only when a fuel rod stops generating enough heat that it needs to constantly be cooled. Only then can it be placed in casket for storage or transportation.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. fromthere

    To be honest, it doenst "matter' if the problem is small or large (its not small)
    In Tokyo and other cities even the water is not drinkable anymore (or at least reliable) and the crops will grow contaminated from now on (are already)
    We are talking about what? 40-50 million people in the area
    There is no evacuation, prophylactic measures or any contingency plan for so many people ...
    The government can barely supply water for the newly born in Tokyo and need american help even to get fresh water to try to cool one reactor the public know is damaged now thanks the accident with 2 workers...
    And the 400 000 refugees barely has access to water, food, fuel or information ...
    Imagine if they were to evacuate 2 million people in the 50-mile radius recommended by the U.S.
    They will just have to take it.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Amygadalus communis

      America & Canada have room!

      March 26, 2011 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Amygadalus communis

      A commission needs to be established to help faciltate the evacuation of the island. The sooner the better. Maybe enlist Catholic Charities to begin finding sponsers for the displaced. I have room. Do you?

      March 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amygadalus communis

      SPRING 2002
      To the Catholic Church,

      You were also put on notice almost 10 years ago. YOU HAVE NOT RESOLVED THE PEDOPHILE ISSUE. It spreads like the PLAGUE.

      March 27, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Amygadalus communis

      Sorry to the Congregation of the Catholic Church for yelling. I must clarify. The Church has there own CIA/Illuminati, who may have kept the TRUTH from John Paul. The German will not be so lucky.

      March 27, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Raw Truth

    This the reason why we should not use nuclear chemicals and keep away this is very dangerous and it also shows how any disaster can happen and these facilities are not safe and neither is the area. People must fight for their rights to not have to be subjected to these harmful poisons. It seems these major companies and Government do not learn from these tragedies and still to date can not contain nor fix the situation before it becomes as bad as it has become. We as humans are here to advance in life and not make the same mistakes if you keep doing the same thing over and over and do not learn then that is ignorance!

    March 25, 2011 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
    • JR

      Actually, that's the definition of insanity...

      March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Hawg

      Or stupidity, ignorance means you don't know and can be taught.

      March 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. PARROT


    March 25, 2011 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Sulayman

      The Doomsday clock is a countdown to nuclear war, not powerplan accidents.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • bumblebee01

      you are so freaking stupid its not doomsday until our lord jesus christ comes back duh!!!!

      March 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clark Nova

      Small chance of that. He's dead, you know.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mary Toole

    I hope the water stays clean. Too may deformed babies result: http://frontiersinneuroscience.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/baby-with-8-limbs-ischiopagi/

    March 25, 2011 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Where it goin next

    Well we know how much the 3 men been exposed to. I wonder when will they decide to check the ocean and the eco system on how much radiation been spilled or blown into the sea. Do they think just cause its a ocean all the radiation will just "GO AWAY"?

    March 25, 2011 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
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