NE Japan Earthquake Day 5: Workers Race in the Dark to Stabilize Nuclear Reactors Amidst Fears of Explosions and Aftershocks; Governor of Tokyo Apologizes for Calling Disaster “Divine Punishment”; Stock Market Plummets 10.55%

Emergency Teams Work Desperately in the Dark Reactors Amidst Fears of Explosions and Aftershocks
Yomiuri Shimbun: 被曝の恐怖、余震…真っ暗な建屋で決死の作業

The Fukushima I Nuclear Reactor Complex, where radioactive material continues to be released.

While contending with the fear of radiation poisoning, the power plant staff desperately continues its work. On the morning of the 15th, there was a large explosion at Reactor No. 2. Tokyo Power and the companies assisting it had 800 people there pumping water at the time, but after the explosion, only the “necessary minimum” of 50 people stayed, and the other 750 left the site. In order to evade further explosions, work must be interrupted when radiation gets too high. On the morning of the 15th, radiation in the vicinity of Reactor No. 3 was measured at 400 millimeters Sievert, and shift lengths were limited to 15 minutes. The power outage caused by the tsunami continues. Because light cannot be struck, staff are working inside the reactor in the dark, and efficiency levels are not high. Aftershocks continue, and tsunami warnings force the staff to cut off their work. The 400mSv reading came from a handheld radiation surveillance device a worker was carrying.

On the afternoon of the 12th, there was a verbal warning to release high pressure steam inside the storage container of No. 1. This averted a fissure, the worst possible result. The man who made the warning was bathed in 100mSv radiation, and after feeling nausea, he was taken to a hospital.

This work, by nature, carries the risk of exposure to radiation. For this reason, a veteran who was familiar with the plans for No. 1 was in charge of the operation. Though he was wearing a full body suit and mask made of special Tyvek material, and he made an early warning call, for just over ten minutes he was exposed to as much radiation as a normal person could comfortably handle in a year, about 100 times the rays that naturally occur in the environment.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says there are about 70 Tokyo Power employees at work pumping water into the reactor. They rotate between manning the emergency control room and working in the field.

The measuring instruments in the central control room were also taken out of commission by the original disaster. Because control cannot be assumed from a remote location, some of the cooling work must be done by hand and voice. Because Fukushima I is an old reactor which has operated 40 years, transportation lanes are narrow, which also trips up the work.

As water is pumped in, pressure inside the container also rises, increasing the danger of a collapse, so gas must sometimes be released from the inside. Since the gas includes radioactive material, releases must be as restrained as possible. Tokyo Power’s supervisor said “we’re doing our utmost to preserve a balance” and sighed.

Tokyo Governor Ishihara Apologizes for “Wounding the Families of Victims Deeply” by Calling Disaster “Divine Punishment
Yomiuri Shimbun: 石原知事、天罰発言撤回・謝罪「深く傷つけた」

Tokyo Governor Shintarō Ishihara apologized on the 15th to “victims of this disaster and citizens of this city and the entire country” for calling the Great Eastern Earthquake “divine punishment” and retracted his statements.

In his opening statement at a press conference about the earthquake response, he said, “I feel great remorse for my thoughtlessness toward the victims…I retract my statements and apologize profusely…I promise to renew my efforts as Governor to do everything possible for the victims of this disaster.”

On the 14th, when the press asked how Mr. Ishihara viewed Japanese citizens’ response to the earthquake, he said, “It is necessary for us to use this opportunity to cleanse ourselves of egoism…This is definitely divine punishment.”

According to the governor’s office, these words sparked a rush of messages and phone calls offering opinions and protests.

Nikkei Stocks Fall Across the Board, Scraping Below ¥8500 at One Point
Yomiuri Shimbun: 日経平均全面安、一時8500円割り込む

The Japanese stock market crumpled on the 15th under the crushing blows of the earthquake and Fukushima reactor accidents as anxiety about the future of the economy spiked drastically.

The Nikkei (which lists 225 stocks) closed at ¥8605.15, a whole ¥1015.34 lower than the day before. These depths are equal to those reached during the Lehman Shock in October 2008. The 10.55% fall was the third largest in history.

From the rush of sellers at the opening bell, the market ceaselessly declined, hitting ¥1392.86 below the previous day’s close at one point. The trading volume of 5.77 billion shares was the highest ever recorded in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The market also reflects worries about the effects of rolling blackouts on business operations. Many believe that, in the words of one major brokerage, “the downward correction will continue for the time being.”









(2011年3月15日20時01分 読売新聞)





(2011年3月15日17時41分 読売新聞)





(2011年3月15日15時12分 読売新聞)

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