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Japan Nuclear Crisis; Report: Japan's Nuclear Warning; Rebels on Defense in Libya
Aired March 16, 2011 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: As fears about a potential nuclear catastrophe escalate, a voice of order is urging people to stay calm and to keep caring.
Now, Emperor Akihito has never made a televised address in a time of crisis, and his appearance just accentuates the scale of the disaster and the fear of the unknown.
Now, what is unknown is just how far the country's nuclear problems will spiral.
Wednesday saw two further setbacks at a stricken plant in northeastern Japan. Helicopters carrying water were deployed to the Fukushima Daiichi facility, but the mission was aborted, and the plant was briefly evacuated after white smoke appeared and radiation levels spiked. Now, the probable cause, damage to the casing around reactor number 3.
Now, this scare followed a fire in the plant's number 4 reactor, and a group of just 180 workers remain at the plant trying to contain the radiation threat.
And the appearance of this man diverted the public's attention from the nuclear crisis, if only for a moment. Emperor Akihito is Japan's revered ceremonial head of state. And in that unprecedented TV appearance, he encouraged his people to keep their hopes alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMPEROR AKIHITO (through translator): Currently, the entire nation is putting forth its best effort to save all suffering people. However, under the severe cold weather, evacuees are having a very difficult time because they lack food, water and energy sources. I truly hope that we will be able to save lives and perhaps slightly improve the lives of victims. And hopefully, with these efforts, we will be able to encourage victims and offer them hope as they try to recover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: The emperor's words come as the number of dead and missing from Friday's disaster rose to more than 12,000 people. The death toll now stands at more than 4,000.
And the world is waiting to see whether the human tragedy will be compounded by a deadly release of radiation. A nuclear meltdown happens when fuel rods overheat, melting the steel and concrete structures containing them.
Tom Foreman explains what we know about the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before the earthquake and the tsunami. Here are the nuclear reactors we've been talking about, numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. And here's what they look like now since those terrible events.
They've been having persistent problems keeping water flowing to number 1, number 2 and number 3, trying to cool down the reactor cores and keep them from overheating, possibly melting down. But the real issue is number 4.
Number 4 was not even operating at the time of the earthquake, but outside the hardened case that holds the active nuclear ingredients, outside is a storage area for the spent nuclear rods which are still radioactively hot. They're kept in water so that they don't burst into flames. The fear is that the water has drained down and that, in fact, that's what's causing these fires.
If they are exposed, one nuclear expert told me you could not get within 50 yards of this without getting a fatal dose of radiation. Just as importantly, if they're burning, all of the ash, all of the smoke would carry cesium with it. Cesium is the same product that came out of Chernobyl and caused all of those problems.
Let's widen out and look at the area that they're concerned about there. This is the 12-mile radius in which they ordered evacuations of about 70,000 people, and said nobody can be in here. But now it's expanded beyond that, to a 19-mile radius.
And out here, the concern is that people need to stay inside, keep their windows closed, their homes airtight. No turning on ventilators or air-conditioning, keep their laundry indoors, everything they can to keep from coming in contact with any cesium if it's coming away from that, if this is indeed the source of the fire.
You're hearing a lot of "ifs" here. One of the reasons you're hearing a lot of "ifs" is because there have been significant complaints that for all that's going on, on the ground there, there has not been enough communication from the power company and maybe from the Japanese government as well about precisely what is happening. The White House here is even concerned about that as people try to get a handle on precisely what is happening in those reactors, and all eyes are upon them.
STOUT: Tom Foreman there.
Now, earlier, on Wednesday, radiation was detected in Fukushima City's water supply. Now, that is some distance from the nuclear plants, but authorities stress that the levels found are not harmful to human health.
Now, Mark MacKinnon is a journalist who left Fukushima just hours ago. He joins me on the line right now.
Now, Mark, earlier today you were inside a makeshift radiation testing center in Fukushima. What did you see there?
MARK MACKINNON, EAST ASIA CORRESPONDENT, "THE GLOBE AND MAIL": Well, it was a converted gymnasium in Fukushima that had about 2,500 evacuees who had been moved in there from that radiation zone -- sorry, from that evacuation zone we were just looking at. They had set up just outside of the evacuation center. They had set up -- it was a voluntary testing system where people -- I think you just saw a video of those who had come out of the zone would come and have their clothing and themselves tested to see if they picked up any radiation while they were inside the zone.
The people were very, very calm, as we've seen all throughout Japan, all throughout these multiple crises. But you can imagine that there's a lot of tension when people are lining up with young children and asking them -- and having to explain to them what's going on.
STOUT: Yes. I mean, just looking at some of the photos that you put out through Twitter, children being tested for radiation. Very unsettling scenes, indeed.
Now, outside the shelter, what is the situation like in the streets? What did it look like in downtown Fukushima today?
MACKINNON: Yes. That was really, really interesting.
I mean, we were driving through -- sort of 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., we were driving around the town. It should have been obviously rush hour on a weekday, and we were -- there was almost no traffic at all.
I spoke with one taxi driver who was sitting outside of the closed train station. There were a couple of different taxi drivers. I don't know what they were waiting for since there were no trains coming or going. But he said that he had two rides all day, and one of them was to get someone right out of Fukushima.
So, obviously, he said that the people that he knew hadn't actually fled the city. They were staying indoors with their windows and doors and locked tight. People are obviously very, very concerned.
The people that I spoke with at the evacuation center, they were following government orders, but they were deeply, deeply distrustful about what they were being told about being -- about what level of radiation they had been exposed to, what level of radiation there was in the city. As you mentioned, there is now radiation detection in the ground water.
So, you know, this road -- I came back from the northeast, from the tsunami zone, and people there were very trusting of the government's orders. When it comes to this nuclear question, there's obviously a lot more suspicion and fear.
STOUT: A lack of faith about TEPCO and just how transparent they are.
Now, what is the general mood among survivors? I mean, having dealt with the quake, the tsunami, and now the nuclear threat, what are they thinking? How are they coping?
MACKINNON: I spoke with one guy today and it was just -- you know, it was an awful, awful story. He was from one of the seaside towns that was just completely obliterated by the tsunami. And so what he did is he heard the tsunami siren, he packed his family into the car. They drove 15 kilometers up into safety, but what they had actually done was driven themselves 15 kilometers closer to the nuclear plant.
So on Saturday, the day after the tsunami hit, there's an explosion at the nuclear plant. So they scramble and they go what they think is a far enough distance away, 25 kilometers away from the plant itself, for a second evacuation. And then on Sunday and Monday, as there were more explosions, and the situation at the Fukushima reactor gets worse and worse and worse, they're told that now they're expanding the evacuation site even further.
So he had actually been evacuated since Friday four different times. And you can image how exhausted they were. I mean, thankfully, he and his family were checked for radiation and they hadn't had any. It was the first bit of good news they had in days.
STOUT: You're weaving your way through Japan, going from disaster zone to disaster zone. A very significant moment earlier today was when the Japanese emperor spoke. And when he spoke on national television, what was the general reaction?
MACKINNON: Well, when he was speaking, I was actually driving to Fukushima from the northeast, so the only people in the car really were myself and some colleagues, and our Japanese translator. And she said to me that in her whole life -- and she's in her 30s -- she hadn't heard the emperor speak before. She never heard his voice.
I mean, apparently, he gives an address every New Year's, or on his birthday. But this was, for her, quite remarkable. And it just tells you sort of the gravity of the situation, that the emperor, who is someone that is really above and separate from the Japanese people, felt the need to go on television and talk about this.
And he wasn't talking about the details. He wasn't talking about the political issues. He was just trying to lift up the spirits. And I think that shows you how great the concern is here that they took that rather remarkable step today.
STOUT: Well, Mark, thank you so much for joining with us here on NEWS STREAM and sharing your findings with us.
Mark MacKinnon, of "The Globe and Mail," live from the disaster zone.
Now, a new report says that the International Atomic Energy Agency raised concerns about Japan's nuclear power plants back in 2008. Now, "The Telegraph" reports that a diplomatic cable given to WikiLeaks showed the nuclear watchdog feared a strong earthquake would pose a serious problem.
Now, in the article, it also says that Japan's government pledged to upgrade safety at its nuclear plants, but it is unclear what measures were taken.
Now, we want to go to structural engineer Peter Yanev now. He joins us live from Beijing.
And Peter, since the initial quake and tsunami on Friday, I mean, there have been three explosions, two fires, and multiple cooling system breakdowns at that Fukushima Daiichi plant. I mean, could better structural engineering have prevented this?
PETER YANEV, NUCLEAR ENGINEER, YANEV ASSOC.: So far, there is no evidence that I've seen that structural engineering actually had anything to do with the plant. And the reason for that is the fundamental reason is we understand today, based on somewhat limited information that's been released so far, is that the problem really was caused by the tsunami, not the earthquake.
As far as we know, there is limited damage from the earthquake even to conventional buildings in Sendai. Most of the buildings are fine.
We have a team there. A colleague of mine, Hitni Amoto (ph), is in Sendai at the moment. I spoke to him just recently. Most of the buildings appear to be fine until you come to the tsunami zone, and then everything is wrecked.
So, based on that -- we know that the earthquake was stronger in Sendai. We know that the strength of the shaking in Fukushima was significantly lower. The implication is that the structures should be fine.
What I know of the plant -- and I've been to the plant twice, and to similar plants many, many more times -- the plant should have been fine, should have survived the earthquake fine. However, the tsunami wall surrounding the plant was inadequate to handle the height of the tsunami. It was too short and the tsunami went over.
The plant has a low profile because of the Japanese requirement of putting the plants on rock. So they tend to dig a big hole and sink the whole plant down to bedrock, which has good features and, in this case, the worst possible feature.
So what we've got is much of the critical equipment in the plant, in the reactor building, away from the reactor. It has nothing to do with the nuclear side of the reactor. That's where the diesels are.
Below grade, the tsunami comes over, floods the area behind the plant, floods the structures, and suddenly we've got generators underwater. And they would work about as well as your PC underwater. They don't work.
So a lot of the systems that had failed, a lot of the problems we're hearing about, are probably caused because they don't have the equipment that they usually need to make sure that the safety systems kick in and prevent what's happening. It's not a structural issue that I know of. It's fundamentally --
STOUT: So, Peter, you're saying that this nuclear facility there -- yes, just to sum up here, I just want to confirm that what I'm hearing is right. You're saying that the nuclear facility was properly engineered to be as quake-proof as possible, but not tsunami-proof. Is that right?
YANEV: Well, yes, that appears to be the case now. The tsunami, obviously there was either a miscalculation, or was never checked adequately, because that wall should have been adequate to handle a tsunami magnitude 9.0 earthquake from the fault zone that you could practically see from the plant out in the ocean, if you could see through the water.
So, the buildings, themselves, the structures apparently are fine, or were fine until the explosions started occurring. Apparently, generators worked for approximately an hour after the earthquake. Then the tsunami came in -- rough numbers -- then the tsunami came in, and then the problem started.
I am unaware of any significant problems before the tsunami comes. So, fundamentally --
STOUT: So, Peter, given -- right. Now, given the tsunami threat, is it even wise to build any nuclear facilities on the coast? I mean, on one hand, you're on the coast, you have access to water if cooling systems break down. But then again, you have the tsunami threat.
So, is it wise at all to continue to have nuclear facilities on the coast in countries like Japan?
YANEV: OK. In countries like Japan, as long as the facility is well above water level. So, the tsunami, is it 10 meters, is it 20 meters, is it 30 meters? I think we can determine that. You can certainly put the plant above that level. This is one lesson from this tsunami.
The safest system is to avoid the problem altogether. Get the plant above where the tsunami can hit. You can always add another wall just in case. But if this plant had been 20 meters higher than it is now, we would not have had the problem, probably, most likely, 90 percent sure -- 95 percent sure.
STOUT: If it was only 20 meters higher?
YANEV: So, now, if you're coming to countries like -- something on that order, yes. I think we would have avoided this problem.
Theoretically, I don't know enough because we haven't been told enough. Both the government and the operators have withheld information to an extent that is very difficult to judge from a technical perspective. So we have to make suppositions here instead of being able to actually come up with good ideas to help the situation.
So, that in itself, the lack of -- the complete lack of PR capability so far exhibited to me is not helping the situation. We, as engineers, who are familiar with this, could have been more helpful, I think, if we had known that. But we don't.
STOUT: Well, Peter, we'll leave it at that, but thank you very much for joining us here. And as you said -- yes, Peter, as you said, you have visited the facility twice in the past. And given your experience in structural engineering, we really appreciate your insight there.
Peter Yanev, of Yanev Associates, joining us live from Beijing there.
Now, in the capital of Bahrain, another big story we're following this hour, reports of brutal assaults by security forces. And we'll take you live to the capital city of Manama, where the smoke is rising after security forces clashed with protesters.
And in Japan, international crews are racing to find survivors buried in the rubble. We'll bring you the latest on the rescue effort.
STOUT: Welcome back.
Now, in Libya, forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are going after the rebel-held city of Misrata. Now, a witness says the city came under heavy tank and artillery fire. Witnesses in eastern Libya say Ajdabiya is flipping from rebel control. It is the last major city between pro- government forces and the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
Now, on Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council is debating whether to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, but Colonel Gadhafi warns foreign governments that his nation will not be defeated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): We will accept the challenges. If it's from within, they will be crushed. If it's from the outside, they will be crushed. If it's military, they will be crushed.
The Libyan nation will unite in one fight. Liberation will continue, and we will fight the nations who try to intimidate us.
They need to be defeated. This is not the first time. We have beat them before, and repeatedly.
Britain, France and the U.S. will be defeated. The Libyan nation will be victorious. National unity will prevail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now, France's foreign minister says several Arab nations are willing to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Now, if Ajdabiya slips from opposition control, some rebels fear it is just a matter of time before Gadhafi's troops launch an assault on the unofficial rebel capital of Benghazi.
Now, Arwa Damon was right in the middle of that fight in Ajdabiya.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The opposition forces are struggling now to keep pro-Gadhafi troops from pushing into the city of Ajdabiya. We have seen rounds landing inside the city's outer perimeter. We have seen the opposition firing back, using surface-to-air artillery. We've seen an incoming barrage of mortar fire.
There are also reports of air strikes happening overnight and in the morning. We saw one aircraft overhead. It did not fire, not while we were here. Not entirely sure if it was trying to gauge the opposition's positions.
This is proving to be a much tougher battle than anyone had anticipated. This city, key territory. Should the pro-Gadhafi elements be able to push in here, the concern is that this could potentially turn into a bloodbath.
We've just seen a creeping barrage of incoming artillery fire forcing the opposition to withdraw further into the heart of the city of Ajdabiya. This is going to be a key and decisive battle if Gadhafi's troops continue to be able to push forward in this way.
When it is going to end, how long the opposition can hold on at this point is not at all clear. All of the fighters only have one question at this point, and that is, where is the no-fly zone? They're asking that of the United States. They are asking that of the United Nations.
The concern is that as these pro-Gadhafi elements gain even more ground, if Colonel Gadhafi should somehow hold onto power, he is not a man known to have mercy on those who oppose him.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Ajdabiya, Libya.
STOUT: Now, witnesses in Bahrain say security forces have stormed the main hospital and have actually beaten doctors. Now, CNN cannot independently confirm the doctors' claims.
Now, they also attacked demonstrators at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital. Now, this is footage of smoke rising from the city center. On the ground, protesters could hear a steady round of ammunition and see helicopters flying overhead.
Now, this violence follows deadly clashes in the southern city of Sitra on Tuesday.
Now, Wednesday's attack, it happened at the Pearl Roundabout. It is a key rallying spot for anti-government protesters.
We want to go live now to Mohammed Jamjoom. He is there in Manama.
Mohammed, the crackdown in the Pearl Roundabout, and also these attacks at the hospital, give us the details.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, I should mention at first just a couple of updates.
We've just heard that a curfew has been imposed by the government here. We just got that confirmed a few minutes ago. It starts at 4:00 p.m. local time, lasting until 4:00 a.m. local time. Not many more details beyond that at this point.
Also, from our vantage point here, which is about a half-mile down the road from Pearl Roundabout, we just saw five military vehicles, military trucks, driving down Sheikh Khalifa Highway. At least one of them had troops in the back.
They were driving in the direction of Pearl Roundabout. We don't know for what purposes they were heading in that direction, if this is because of the curfew or something else. We're trying to find that out from the government.
The crackdown began today approximately 7:00 a.m. local time. From our vantage point, we saw huge plumes of black smoke repeatedly throughout the morning coming from Pearl Roundabout.
We saw tear gas being dispersed. We saw anti-riot police walking in the direction of Pearl Roundabout, and then coming out of Pearl Roundabout and firing on other residential neighborhoods, trying to make sure that they dispersed crowds.
Witnesses told us it was a bloody day. They said that there were at least 150 injured. We have four confirmed dead, two policemen and two protesters. That's according to medical officials, and also the Bahraini government.
Now, we spoke to medics. We spoke to doctors at Salmaniya Hospital. They told us, at least three of them, that they are locked inside the hospital, that they are trying to get out. They want to help the injured, but that there are security forces surrounding the hospital, surrounding the entrance, not allowing injured people in, not allowing doctors out.
Now, the government here has denied that stridently. They put out statements saying that those allegations are baseless. They're saying that the media is spreading lies.
Witnesses telling us something quite different. And we're also getting pictures that purport to be from inside the hospital, and we're hearing that more medics have been beaten up.
So, a lot of conflicting information now, but people on the ground, very concerned about the situation, worried about the crackdown. We've been told by the government that Pearl Roundabout has been cleared, but we've not been able to access the area -- Kristie.
STOUT: Now, today's crackdown, it comes after a month of citizen protests in Bahrain. Let's back up a little bit. And can you tell us, what are the protesters demanding? What do they want? And will the deaths today -- you just reported two confirmed deaths of the demonstrators -- will that intimidate the movement?
JAMJOOM: Well, let me address the deaths first.
This certainly is something that is going to have an effect on the movement here. Right now, demonstrators are very concerned for their safety. We don't know where most of them has gone.
We have been told by the government that they have been cleared away from the Roundabout, but there's been a concern amongst opposition figures and amongst demonstrators that because a GCC force had come into Bahrain two nights ago, that there would be a violent crackdown. That, essentially, this was a declaration of war against them.
Now, today, most people have told us that these are Bahraini troops that have gone into Pearl Roundabout, but we still don't have that completely confirmed by the government. A lot of contradictory information on that point.
With regards to the demands of the opposition and the protesters here, what's complicating matters at the moment isn't just the rise in sectarianism. It's the fact that even amongst the opposition, you have hard-liners and you have moderates.
The hard-liners, they want complete regime change and nothing more. The moderates are asking for constitutional reform. Whether this is going to cause more fractiousness within this group, we don't know at this point.
What the opposition seems to be united by at this moment is the fact that they feel that they have been attacked, that they will be continued to be attacked. And there are fears by a lot of human rights activists in Bahrain right now that because these troops have come in from Sunni countries into Bahrain, and Bahrain is a predominant Shiite country, that this will stoke sectarian tension and that this could cause all-out civil war -- Kristie.
STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom, joining us on the line live from Manama with the very latest after this deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters this day in Bahrain.
Now, up next here on NEWS STREAM, not taking any chances. Now, people are packing the airports of Tokyo. We'll find out why they are fleeing Japan.
STOUT: Now, we have some breaking news coming in from Pakistan, where there has been a surprise change in the case of an American CIA contractor.
Now, this man, Raymond Davis, he was charged with murder in Pakistan in January. Davis was accused of killing two men. But just a short time ago, those charges were dropped. Now, an official in Pakistan says the victim's heirs have forgiven him, leading to his release.
Some people are leaving Japan over radiation fears, and it's not just tourists trying to get out of town.
Our Paul Hancocks reports from Tokyo's Narita International Airport.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Tokyo's Narita Airport. Now, it is certainly more busy than normal, but there's no sense of panic among people that are trying to get out of the country today.
Now, we've heard from some airlines. They've told us that, yes, they are busier. And they are considering on putting on extra planes.
We've also heard from Japan's immigration office, saying that they have records showing that more Japanese citizens have been leaving the country since Sunday. And it does seem to me personally as though there is a much higher proportion of foreigners than you would expect at a Japanese airport.
One man said he had to leave with his family because he lives too close to Fukushima nuclear plant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just watching TV, and I was just, like, let's go. So, about 9:00 p.m. on Monday, we just jumped in the car, and we just headed for the mountains, directly away from the nuclear power stations.
HANCOCKS: Another man who works for a large multinational company told me that it is a very personal decision if he wanted to leave, but all his friends have decided to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe what I've been told. You know, people are evacuating. All foreigners are evacuating. Large multinational companies, foreign companies, are evacuating. So you don't really know what to believe. It's just better to play it safe.
HANCOCKS: Now, everyone we've spoken to so far here says that their decision has nothing to do with the earthquake, nothing to do with the tsunami. Their decision is purely based on worries about the nuclear plants.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, at the Narita Airport in Tokyo.
LU STOUT: And we'll get back to the situation at the crippled nuclear plant in a moment and discuss the radiation risks to civilians as well as U.S. troops participating in the aid effort.
LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your work headlines.
Now officials in Japan continue to wrestle with problems at the earthquake damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Another fire was discovered in one reactor on Wednesday causing radiation levels to spike. And authorities believe there may have been a breach of the containment vessel of another reactor. Now officials say more than 4,100 people died in Japan's quake and tsunami, but thousands more are missing and feared dead.
Now in a rare televised address Japan's emperor has weighed in on the nuclear crisis. Now emperor Akihito says he is concerned that the situation is now critical. And he hopes the situation will not worsen. He also thanked those involved in the rescue efforts still underway from Friday's twin disasters.
Now doctors at the main hospital in Bahrain's capital say that security forces stormed the building and beat them up. Now the claim has not been verified by CNN, but it came after at least two anti-government protesters were killed in clashes with forces in the island kingdom. Now a reporter says that multiple gunshots were heard. And officials say police cleared protesters from the Pearl roundabout area in Manama.
Now a witness in the Libyan Misurata says it has come under sustained attack by pro-Gadhafi forces. It is the latest in a series of attempts by government forces to win back control of rebel held towns. And it comes on the same the United Nations Security Council is due to consider whether to impose a no-fly zone over the country.
And there's been a surprise change in the case of an American CIA contractor. Raymond Davis was charged with murder in Pakistan in January, accused of killing two men. Just a short time ago those charges were dropped. Now a Pakistan official says the victim's heirs have forgiven him leading to his release.
As nuclear worries continue to plague Japan, the number of workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has reportedly been boosted from 50 to 180, but it is still a far cry from the 800 working there before the disaster struck.
Now Stan Grant joins me live from Tokyo with the latest. And Stan, what is the current state of the damaged reactors at the nuclear plant?
STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, good question, because that's a question that we really don't have answers to just yet. There is concern about numbers three and numbers four today. But each day throughout this emergency, Kristie, one or more of the other reactors have also been in the spotlight. Now number three there was this white cloud hovering above, was it smoke, was it gas? There was concern about the containment vessel may have been breached which hold in the core of the reactor and stops the radioactive material from spilling out in the case of a meltdown.
Now in reactor number four there is a pool which officials are concerned may be boiling in water and evaporating, exposing spent fuel rods. There's also been a fire there yet again today following a fire yesterday. So concerns they may also contributed to radiation in the atmosphere. And it was that radiation peak, it spiked again and then dropped back which forced the evacuation of those workers. You're right, it was 50 workers. They have been bolstered now to 180. But still struggling to bring this situation under control.
Radiation fears also appearing once again in the public. The Fukushima government there, the local government saying that they had reported traces of cesium and iodine in the water supply. Now I must make this very clear, there were very, very small amounts, trace amounts. And in fact the government says the water was safe and you could still drink it. They tested again several hours later and they found zero traces.
But they're once again causing concern, causing fear in the community. And really the public now are concerned about what they're hearing and the get from the information they're getting in the public and whether and fact the information they're getting from the government rather, and whether in fact the public chooses to believe it, Kristie.
LU STOUT: And that's the issue isn't it, that matter of trust. The nuclear plant operator, TEPCO, has a history of dishonest practices, especially when it comes to its safety record. So how trusted a source is TEPCO at this time?
GRANT: It's not just TEPCO of course, there are many other agencies involved here -- the Nuclear Safety Agency, the local governments in the various prefectures. There are many different organizations here are contributing. We hear from the chief cabinet office as well sending out information.
And the problem here is when you get information from different sources it's often contradictory. It's often confusing. They're dealing with different aspects of this. So what's happened now is they brought together a joint task force under the prime minister to report directly to the prime minister and try to bring all this information together.
But while there is information coming out about the events, the hard information is still missing. They assume or they suspect possible breaches of the containment vessels. They also assume that there have been partial meltdowns. We know that there is damage to the fuel rods in numbers one and numbers three. They've tested for that. But what's in the radiation? What sort of radioactive material is being released? How harmful could that be? How long will that survive? How far will that travel?
This is the hard detail that's still missing and the hard detail the public really desperately wants to hear, Kristie.
LU STOUT: Now Stan Grant joining us live from Tokyo there. Still so much uncertainty about what is drifting in the air, just the level of radioactivity that has been leaked. So many people are keeping an eye on which way the wind is blowing around Fukushima. Now Mari Ramos joins us from CNN's world weather center. And Mari, their last check it was blowing southeast away from Japan into the Pacific. Is that still the trend?
MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Actually the component there continue to be with what you just said, the wind blowing away from land and into the ocean, which is a big change from what we had yesterday, Kristie. Remember that we were looking at those winds that were blowing onshore. They were not only blowing out of the south, they were blowing out of the east, here. And that southeasterly component has changed. So whatever we saw yesterday would have most likely moved inland and then eventually turn to the north.
Now, this is different now. Look at the wind, they're coming out of the north now and west. So We've seen a big change in the wind direction. And also in the temperature. This is funneling in some very cold air here coming out of the north and that's very significant as well.
As we head through the next couple of days this is going to continue to be the trend. Very strong northwesterly winds expected to blow across this area. Earlier today we had winds gusting as high as 50 -- over 50 kilometers per hour right at the Fukushima area here. That's very significant as well. When I heard about helicopters flying around, I was wondering if that would be already -- over that threshold of strong winds where helicopters would be safely able to fly.
The other concern that I have is that if there is a fire over these areas or around these areas it will probably tend to spread very quickly because the winds are so strong. Even though they're not very dry winds, they are still very strong.
So we're having this Siberian air that continues to funnel down across the region. See that high right over here? This is going to take over across Japan as we head through the next couple of days. So as we head into the weekend another change in the weather is coming. And remember what I told you yesterday, you have high pressure, that tends to sink any kind of pollutants close to the ground, so that's a different kind of problem, especially when we talk about that nuclear aspect.
So anyway, so that Siberian air continuing to move along. Temperatures will remain fairly cold, four to eight degrees below the average across central parts of Honshu. And these hard hit areas will probably see some dangerous wind chills in the next day. Already that started today. It's going to get worse overnight tonight and as we head into tomorrow. So that's very significant.
Some areas have had two, maybe one centimeter of snow. And normally that wouldn't be a big deal, but the other thing I was telling you about, imagine, all of those people, all the rescue workers, all of the survivors going through all of those areas that have been so badly hit in the snow now. So this is a different situation that people are having to face -- not only the dangerous wind chills, but look at this, this is a woman carrying whatever she can on her back in a bag. And look at the background. Now, a different situation that people are having to face across the area.
This is an image of a rescue personnel that are going through what's - - you know, what's left here, through the rubble, trying to find any bodies that may be trapped under the rubble. So that makes it very difficult and extremely tiring for people to have to deal -- you know, the exertion on their bodies is quite different. Here as you see a group of soldiers doing the same thing, trying to find any survivors. Visibility is reduced. Temperatures are very cold. It's just completely different.
Look at this, Sendai in this area right in here to the north we still have some snow that's going to be in the forecast. Most of the snow will be falling on the windward side, on this side of the mountains, on the areas that are facing the east here or the Sea of Japan. But on this side over here, the snow will not be as prolific, but it will be bothersome to say the very least and that combined with the wind.
On the good part, Kristie, we are going to see that temperature trend going up -- 3 by Thursday, 6 by Friday, and look at Saturday, it's definitely going to feel a bit more like spring. A lot of that snow melting significantly, which is another concern, and highs close to 11 degrees Celsius in Sendai.
Back to you.
LU STOUT: OK. A little bit of good news there, but still in the meantime the cold definitely adding to the hardship of the victims and the rescue workers there on the ground. Mari Ramos there. Thank you, Mari.
Now back to the issue of feared fallout. Now among the nations worried about the spread of radiation is Japan's western neighbor China. At a time when tensions between the two countries remain high, CNN's Eunice Yoon gives us the view from Beijing.
EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a potential radiation contamination for Japan's nuclear crisis are arriving in China and across Asia. Most people believe that a Chernobyl style meltdown is unlikely, however governments are taking precautions.
Here in China authorities are conducting 24 hour tests for radioactive substances along the east coast in the air and in the water. Of course, they've also been asked to check all products coming in from Japan. Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, India and the Philippines are taking similar measures, testing radiation levels especially in fresh produce from Japan.
Most authorities say that these precautions are necessary. However, people shouldn't be panicked.
DR. PHILIP BROOKS, ONCOLOGIST, BEIJING UNITED FAMILY HOSPITAL: Right now there is nothing that the public should be doing. There's no medicine to be taking. They should not be taking potassium iodide. They should be just learning the facts.
YOON: People are fearful and circulating bogus text messages across the region. Doctors empathize that concerns about widespread radiation exposure are unfounded at this time.
Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.
LU STOUT: Now the very thought of radiation floating across the Pacific is causing concern in the U.S., especially on the west coast. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it does not expect to see harmful levels reaching the U.S. Still, U.S. scientists are closely watching the situation. Deborah Feyerick reports.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With all eyes on Japan's damaged nuclear plant, nuclear scientists, meteorologists and others at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California are tracking potential radiation leaks and radiological plumes, providing critical information to emergency officials in Washington, D.C.
GAYLE SUGIYAMA, U.S. ATMOSPHERIC RELEASE ADVISORY CENTER: We respond to a lot of real world incidents such as nuclear power plant accidents -- Three Mile Island, Chernobyl.
FEYERICK: Gayle Sugiyama heads the NARAC program, short of National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center. She described how radiation, or radiological plumes move, and how she and her team track and forecast the direction they're likely to go.
So when you're charting the directions of the plume, what factors are you taking into consideration?
SUGIYAMA: Just about everything. We have real-time meteorological data that comes into the center. We have the terrain. We have land use, the kind of buildings and structures that are available. So we use all that information to basically attempt to estimate the impacts that occur downwind from the release point.
FEYERICK: How quickly can you track what it is and where it's going?
SUGIYAMA: So the models will typically run very fast in five to 10 minutes. But as you get more and more information we begin to basically get a very close picture to what actually occurred on the ground.
FEYERICK: Winds over Japan have been blowing eastward across the Pacific to the California coast. The information from NARAC is vital to federal officials who would decide whether to move people out of any potential danger zone.
SUGIYAMA: Combination of all that information is used by decision makers whether they are emergency responders, firefighters, police departments, state emergency operation centers, the federal government giving advice on where you should take various actions basically to protect the public or the environment.
LU STOUT: In light of the disaster, governments around the world are taking a closer look at their own nuclear policy and safety standards. Fred Pleitgen has more on that.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The nuclear meltdown scare in Japan is causing fear as far away as Germany. Thousands protested around the country on Monday, calling on their government to shut down all German nuclear power plants immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This happened now in Japan that I am thinking it's really, really time to stop using nuclear energy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well whenever -- well, we have technology that is used by mankind there are mistakes that will lead to disasters.
PLEITGEN: German chancellor Angela Merkel has reacted, ordering a safety review of all German nuclear plants in the next three months. Seven of the country's 17 facilities will be shutdown during this period.
The power plants that went online before the end of 1980 will be shut down as long as the moratorium is in place, she said. They will not produce electricity.
As the world watches the events in Japan, many countries are reviewing their own nuclear policies. In Europe, France is the most dependent on atomic energy. The country gets more than 75 percent of its energy from nuclear plants. Paris says it will not change its policy, but that it will conduct safety reviews of its reactors.
Meanwhile, the EU says energy companies in the union have agreed to develop common stress tests for nuclear plants in Europe.
GUENTHER OETTINGER, EUROPEAN UNION ENERGY COMMISSIONER (through translator): We want to look at the risks and the safety agents in light of events in Japan. And carry out a reassessment. I think that the time has come for that. And we feel that the stress test on basis (inaudible) instrument to proceed on -- with that.
PLEITGEN: Nuclear power is also fueling global economic growth, especially in emerging economies. China alone has 27 reactors under construction. The country says it is reviewing safety standards in reaction to the crisis in Japan. And some experts believe the very future of nuclear power might be called into question depending on how bad things get in Japan.
WALT PATTERSON, CHATHAM HOUSE: The short-term, there will be a major reassessment, at least of the political rhetoric about nuclear power. It will definitely be toned down considerably. Whether we actually withdraw from nuclear power I think is a different question. Certainly a country like Japan, or indeed a country like German, would be hard pressed to replace the electricity that would be lost if it shut down its nuclear plants immediately.
PLEITGEN: Energy companies maintain that nuclear power plants in Germany adhere to the highest safety standards. But whether that's enough for an increasingly nervous public both here and elsewhere will probably be decided in Japan.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
LU STOUT: Now freezing temperatures and snow. Now that is what survivors in Japan also have to contend with. We'll tell you how they're coping.
LU STOUT: Now the cold weather is not making life any easier for the earthquake and tsunami survivors. As you can see there's a blanket of snow that's covering much of the disaster area and the temperatures have fallen sharply. Forecasters are worried that the conditions could trigger mudslides. And there are also concerns about the impact the cold will have on power, food and fuel supplies.
Now many survivors still don't know when they can go home or if they even have homes to return to. 450,000 people are living in temporary shelters in Japan's northeast. Many have lost loved ones and everything they own.
Now we'll introduce you to some of them. NHK reports that many are managing to stay positive despite the tragedy around them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is the Matsueba (inaudible) in Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture where 450 people are now sheltered. Many people have lost their homes in the tsunami. Three women living in the shelters are cooking here. And they said that helping each other is encouraging them to get by.
This woman says that there many people who have lost their houses and they're in the same mood and therefore they are cheering each other up and encouraging each other as they live day by day.
The people at the shelter says that they are looking for what they can do so that they can go through and get through these troublesome days.
(inaudible) says that if people help each other there will be a bright future ahead. He says that that is the hope that people here share.
LU STOUT: And still ahead on NEWS STREAM, we travel along with one earthquake survivor as he takes stock of what's left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When the baby was born it was right after I heard that the bodies of 200 to 300 people were washed up. So rather than happiness I felt a twinge of guilt and I cried. But I'm happy, it's just with mixed feelings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: A new life amid all the death and destruction in Japan. And the survivors living in the disaster zone will soon start to pick up the pieces of their lives. Now Soledad O'Brien met an American teacher there who has just begun that task. And she walked with him through the streets of Kesennuma, north of Sendai, to see what is left.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A walk through the narrow streets of Kesennuma is stunning, the debris piled high, cars crushed and overturned, boats resting on sidewalks. It's a testament to the power of the tsunami which roared through the city of 70,000 people just minutes after the earthquake shook the residents to their core.
But this morning, the ferry to and from the tiny island of Oshima was running again. And dozens of people lined up hoping to get to their loved ones, some who'd been stranded for days.
On board, Paul Fales. He turned 25 on Thursday. And by Friday, he'd be a survivor of Japan's worst earthquake every.
PAUL FALES, TEACHER: It was just everything -- all the buildings were just collapsed, a lot like this. There was like cars were like smashed here and there. There's broken glass everywhere.
O'BRIEN: An assistant teacher on nearby Oshima Island, his classroom was on high ground so he'd been safe. Now he was back in the town where he lives to witness the devastation firsthand, starting with a visit to his apartment, a five minute walk.
How worried are you that your apartment is wiped out?
FALES: Oh, I don't (inaudible). I don't think it's going to be -- I think it'll be fine, really.
O'BRIEN: But we're stopped by a street full of mud and debris and water. We can't' get through.
What do you think?
FALES: I'm wondering if we can go around.
O'BRIEN: We can try.
At every turn, the road is impassable.
You're parents must be frantically thinking about you.
O'BRIEN: We find a way across glass and splinters of wood beams.
Watch the nails, OK? Be careful.
But again, we can't get through. He's so close but so far. And the closer we get, the more anxious Paul gets.
Suddenly, out of the blue.
FALES: Rachael (ph) hey. How are you? How are you?
Have you seen David at all?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: David and (inaudible) are fine --
O'BRIEN: It's his friend Rachael Shook (ph), also a teacher she's his neighbor too.
The three of us set off to find a way into the apartment, walking past the oddities, the stunning power of a tsunami brings like a boat perched on top of a car.
After twists and turns we're finally there. Rachael (ph) takes a moment to update the list she keeps on her front door -- friends who have made it. Then Paul tries his key and he's in.
Inside, he tries to salvage medicine and food, but mostly it's a lost cause.
Back outside while we're set up for an interview, Paul borrows my satellite phone to call his parents.
FALES: Hi, mom. Hi, dad. It's Paul. Just saying I'm alive and I'm safe right now. I'm in Kesennuma.
O'BRIEN: He gets voicemail and leaves a message.
But during our interview he discovers why his parents weren't answering the phone.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: One of our bookers, Ben Finley (ph), has been in contact with an American family, Peter and Mary Fales, he -- they had been desperately looking for their son --
O'BRIEN: Paul's mom Mary and his father Peter already scheduled for an interview on AC360 to discuss their missing son are thrilled.
FALES: Yes, I can hear you dad, hi.
PAUL FALES: How are you? We really miss you.
FALES: I'm fine, dad. Hi, mom. I'm OK.
MARY FALES: You sound wonderful.
FALES: I --
PAUL FALES: Have you still got my hat there?
FALES: Yes, I still -- I'll get that back to you as soon as I can.
O'BRIEN: Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Kesennuma, Japan.
LU STOUT: And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. WORLD BUSINESS TODAY with Nina Dos Santos, Maggie Lake and Andrew Stevens is next. END