They don’t bring out Japan’s head of state for just any reason.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito has said he is “deeply worried” about the crisis his country is facing following last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.
In an extremely rare appearance, the emperor went on live TV to make his first public comments on the disaster, and urged an all-out rescue effort.
He spoke after technicians temporarily abandoned a quake-crippled nuclear plant as radiation briefly surged.
This was the first televised address by Emperor Akihito ever. He did not address his people after the Kobe earthquake that killed 6,000.
Radiation levels have now fallen a bit, and 100 workers have returned to the plant, up from 50. But if the workers cannot stay to manage the desperate situation, I don’t see how they can keep the reactors cool enough to avoid utter disaster. And with continuing fires and ruptures in the containment vessels, I fear that’s where we’re headed. The No. 3 reactor looks like it’s releasing radioactive steam.
The biggest concern at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to be the spent fuel rods, which could be sitting exposed without water. And it’s hard to see how those pools will be refilled given the current situation.
If mechanisms to fill the pool at Unit 4 are broken, or if there is a need to repair the pool, it will be difficult to get workers close enough to do this. If spent fuel has been in the pool for a relatively short time, even if the water level is at the top of the fuel rods, the radiation dose to someone at the railing of the pool would give them a lethal dose in well under a minute. This would explain why there have been reports of requests to use helicopters to deliver water to the pools. However, it appears that this is not a practical way of delivering water.
Officials abandoned a plan to dump water from helicopters because of the extreme radiation concerns.
Over 3,600 are confirmed dead from the earthquake and tsunami, and at least another 7,800 are unaccounted for. 440,000 Japanese are living in emergency shelters and have no home to return to.
The Nikkei stock index actually rose 5.7% today, after another commitment to inject money into the system by the Bank of Japan. The Nikkei fell around 6% on Monday and 11% on Tuesday.
UPDATE: In addition, reactors No. 5 and 6, which also contain spent fuel rods, are starting to show signs of trouble.