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. i saw a dinosaur

    It was the lesbian. .lickalottapus

    March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Barney Rubble

    @alejandra...I dunno about you folks, but we never did get-along with the animals. One theory suggests it's becauase we eat them. (shrug) So yeah, Iwas fooling at you. Anyone seen my boy Bam Bam?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    @Sulayman...the Doomsday Clock "was" a countdown to nuclear war. (USA vs. USSR) But since the USAans helped The Arabians develop their oilfields, the USSR (who had previously supplied roughly 60% of the worlds oil) went broke and fell apart. So we stopped using the Doomsday clock. We also stopped building fallout shelters. We found that it's cheaper to use duct-tape in case "terrorists" dirty-bombed our homes.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Common Sense

    Why is the gov.lying to these people? Its common sense this is a very dangerous situation and they only evacuate 12-19 miles away from the plant! Even the 50 mile zone the US recommends is a joke. The radiation came all the way to the US and various other places. 12-50 miles? Who are they trying to fool?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clark Nova

      Lying is what governments do. All governments. All of the time.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott


    March 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott

    What is wrong with some of you? I can't believe some of the deranged things I'm reading like they deserve it, or they got what's coming to them. Seriously? Blaming innocents and cheering at their situation is deplorable. I'm sure there were thousands in that area that wanted nothing to do with these plants. They had no choice, just like us if anything were to happen here.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whiplash sez

      Yup, deplorable. But who cares about blame when they're dead? The reality here is that we are witnessing the result of the decision that we "need" so much energy to run our gadgetry that we are willing to risk not only our own existance, but the existance of all life on this world. Let civilization fall. Let the nuke plants all explode. Tear down the forests to strip mine the world. The earth will recover, but we will not. And life will emerge whole and healthy again eventually, after killing the pathogenic organism that threatens it. How does it feel to be a virus? Ask yourself.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hiyousuckers!

    The headline said that the radiation burn was like a sunburn? That was media propoganda, as the burn, is radioactive poisoning. They have downplayed this so much as they can. When you have this contamination everywhere, each of the particles has a different amount of radiation they give off. I have seen invisible particles peak out a teletector, as well as maxing out personal dosimetry. Water shields radiation, so the testing of the water can really only done properly by filtering, drying the filters and then testing the dried filters. Even so each filter will read differently, because, like I said, each particle will have a different reading. When you have damaged spent fuel rods, every piece, small or large is highly radioactive, and a great deal of them are invisable. They also give off beta radiation, which will need to be read through a beta window, or they won't be seen by a testing chamber. Just a small amount of static will cause these particles to move from one place to another, A highly active particle, ingested can change cell reproduction in the areas they lodge, leading to cancers as well as blood and bone disorders. There is no way all of this can be cleaned up as the half life of most of these particles will be thousands of years, depending on the radioactive isotopes. People need to educate themselves and decide if it is worth the risk, Nuclear power is one of the cleanest forms of power production, at least, until something like this happens. Meanwhile, the press needs to do their homework, and speak the truth, regardless of the catastrophy.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dr. Anthony Hayward

    Dis Maaake my oyl speel luuk lyk drup een bockat!

    March 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Fred

    Um, to address the headline, a sunburn is technically a radiation burn isn't it? Anyway, I'm really hoping that they can get this under control I feel like these poor folks have dealt with enough and I salute the heroes that are out there trying to fix this situation without regard to their own health.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dan

    Quite possibly the dumbest article headline ever.... DUH! Sunburn is a radiation burn.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Katie

    News flash there... What, are there too many journalists, they have to write stupid stories to justify having a job???

    March 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nu Yorker

    From my experience salt water boils alot faster than fresh water... So if they're intention was cooling energy rods, they are being very inificiant... Additionaly the residual salt would cause heavy corrosion to any and all metallic structure, so it's causing further problems in the structural integrity of that plant itself (not that it had any).
    Also the residual salt could in theory serve as insulation, further hampering they're collective efforts.

    Here's some ideas: Arctic nuclear plants, or NO nuclear plants... They're are better and safer methods that produce power... Get on the ball or get rolled over...

    March 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eric in Colorado

    The questions not being asked when the officals say High Radiation levels. Which type is being released some of the cesium takes 30 years to go way. small doses can can chromosomal damage. The questions wht they say high is what kind and how high. If they are tracking particulates in Sweden, then the officials have not been asked the right questions.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Allen Mosbaugh

    "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."

    I too am a nuclear engineer and quite frankly CNN and Mr. Hertel of Georgia Tech should know better than to down play the significance of this report. To assume that a pool of extremely radioactively water from a core damaged reactor contains only beta emitters and has consequences akin to a bad sunburn is a joke. This water likely has dissolved in it a complete spectrum of hundreds of radioactive isotopes from the damaged core including very dangerous alpha, beta and gamma emitters at very high levels. That the water was reportedly outside of the containment in the turbine building shows that not only the core is damaged and partially melted but that the containment has been breached.
    This is not something to downplay.
    Three reactors melted down, three reactor buildings blown to smithereens, a fuel pool or two emptied, spent fuel on fire,
    18 mile evacuation, iodine 131 in Tokyo water supply 125 miles away, Tokyo Power borrowing 25 B.
    Oh the danger is relatively mild akin to a severe sunburn. Give me a Break.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. marellanrao

    It is very horrible that nuclear reactor explodes and severely effects the people.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
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