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Japan Tries To Avert Nuclear Nightmare

Staff Reporters |
March 17, 2011 | 8:58 a.m. PDT

The Japanese crews that on Thursday began using water cannons to cool down nuclear reactors were forced back by fears of high radiation, reports said. The country has feared mass nuclear meltdown if the reactors cannot be cooled.

The Japanese have been firing sea water from helicopters and trucks, focusing mainly on reactor no. 3 at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, which contains plutonium.

Due to fears over the radiation levels, the specially equipped military trucks stopped blasting the reactor with their water cannons after about an hour. Helicopters dumped about 30 tons of water on the plant Thursday morning.

Explosions ripped apart three reactors earlier this week in the crisis that resulted from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the country March 11. The crisis is being compared to the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, though many experts say the current catastrophe is not at bad.

Reuters reports that Japan’s nuclear agency says that radiation levels are now falling at the plant. The Guardian reports, however, that the water-bombing has not so far been successful in controlling radiation leaks. Even with six fire engines spraying water, radiation emissions have increased at the one reactor.

Meanwhile, workers are trying to restore electricity to the reactors. The first to get electricity will most likely be reactor no. 2, and it probably won’t be reconnected until Friday.

The water-bombing of the reactors is part of what the New York Times is calling more and more “desperate and unconventional methods” of averting a full-scale meltdown.

While the U.S. government has been careful to not criticize the Japanese government, The Times slammed the Japanese government in its analysis of the officials’ handling of the situations, saying they showed of lack of candor and criticizing their use of euphemistic language.

Takeshi Sasaki, a political scientist at Gakushuin University, told the Times that Japan has “never experienced such a serious test… At the same times, there is a leadership vacuum.”

The U.S., meanwhile, is flying in aircraft to take its nationals out of the country. The U.S. has urged people to stay at least 50 miles away from the plant. 

See footage of the damaged reactors taken from a military helicopter:

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