Ominous Forecasts over Radiation in Japan's Fukushima Nuclear PlantWorld | March 16, 2011, Wednesday // 21:48| views
A handout image made available 16 March 2011 by Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), showing the destruction and white smoke from reactor block 3 (3-L) and remains of reactor block number 4 (R). EPA/BGNES
Japan's nuclear crisis in the Fukushima nuclear power plant as a result of Friday's earthquake has shown signs of worsening amidst international warnings that the radiation levels on the spot are on the rise.
Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, characterized the situation at the plant as "very serious," and said he planned to fly to Japan from Vienna, according to reports. The emergency situation in Japan has worsened amidst growing radiation concerns.
Speaking at a US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, Gregory Jaczko, head of the US Nuclear Regulation Commission, warned that radiation levels around Japan's troubled nuclear power plant may give emergency workers "lethal doses" of radiation, preventing them from getting near the plant.
"We believe that around the reactor site there are high levels of radiation. It would be very difficult for emergency workers to get near the reactors. The doses they could experience would potentially be lethal doses in a very short period of time," Jaczko said, as cited by BGNES, while also noting that the US regular had limited information of the situation on the ground.
Testifying in Congress earlier, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the United States believes a "partial meltdown" took place at the plant, but he also said he did not want to speculate about events there.
"The site is effectively out of control. In coming hours there could be further catastrophic events which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island," Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a European Parliament committee.
As the international community reacted to the crisis, foreign governments urged foreigners to avoid the area, according to reports.
The French civil protection units that are in Japan to help the local authorities with the earthquake and tsunami relief operations have left the region of the city of Sendai pulling out to 350 km north because of radiation concerns.
Meanwhile, the official death toll from Japan's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami last week now totals 4,277, with 8,194 unaccounted for, the National Police Agency of Japan said on its website. An additional 2,282 people are listed as injured.
Outside of the nuclear disaster, the insured losses from the earthquake and tsunami may reach USD 25 B, according to catastrophe-modeling firm Eqecat said.