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JOHN KING, USA

Crisis in Japan; U.N. Votes to Authorize No-Fly Zone Over Libya

Aired March 17, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Candy. Good evening, everyone. Tonight major breaking news in two important global dramas, Japan uses helicopters and water cannons in a desperate effort to cool dangerous nuclear fuel.

And tonight there's word a new power line has finally been brought to the Fukushima Daiichi complex, but as Friday dawns in Asia, no sign of a major breakthrough and growing worries of two of the six reactors still in distress.

The first just moments ago a major, but perhaps belated international commitment to stop Moammar Gadhafi's brutal march against opposition forces in Libya. United Nations Security Council voted to authorize not only a no-fly zone over Libya, but also all necessary measures including military force to stop the Libyan government and its mercenaries from slaughtering civilians.

I'm told tonight the Pentagon and its NATO partners have contingencies that include air strikes and cruise missile attacks designed to cripple Libya air defenses and punish military units, leaving Gadhafi's push on opposition strongholds in the east.

Now that the U.N. has authorized force, these strikes could be carried out emphasis on could be carried within hours if the president and his partners around the world issue the orders. CNN's Richard Roth track ad dramatic vote at the United Nations tonight - Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: John, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said the people of Libya should be the ones to decide the future of Libya. But now the international community after this resolution is going to try to give them a military backing, possibly.

The resolution passed 10 to nothing with five abstentions including China and Russia. Germany abstained saying it is worried about what will happen with this no-fly zone. Does it open the door to other military operations?

Even though, John, the resolution says there will be, quote, "no foreign occupation." Certainly, a fallout from the huge controversy here in the Iraq war run up, John.

KING: And Richard, you mentioned no use of the vetoes. There were key abstentions. China and Russia though obviously -- they were hesitant if not reluctant to do this, but they decided in the end not to get in the way.

ROTH: Yes. Brazil and India also joining in. They didn't want to stand in the way. They usually come to the aid of the Arab community, the Arab block. It was the Arab League vote to ask and plead for a no-fly zone that really changed the tenor of things.

The U.S. may have worked the maneuvering magic behind a low-key profile because it all came with rush here. A lot of focus on no-fly, but now under the term all necessary measures, there could be air strikes. There could be attacks from anywhere at any time though Gadhafi may adopting different tactics on the ground in advance of this.

KING: Richard Roth with breaking news at the United Nations. Thank you, Richard. That U.N. vote came amid a noticeable shift in the Obama administration's tone about Libya.

For weeks the White House has been very cool to any major U.S. military involvement. Tonight, we are told the president still will insist on a major Arab role in any no-fly zone.

But on Capitol Hill today, a top State Department official said allowing Gadhafi to remain in power is unacceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BURNS, UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: The dangers of him returning to terrorism and violent extremism himself. The dangers of the turmoil he could help create at a very critical moment elsewhere in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If you take a close look at the map of Libya right now, it does beg this question, is it too late? Let's take a look at control of the region. This is a little more than a week ago, late February.

Red that means controlled by Gadhafi. Green controlled by the opposition. Again, this is going back in time a little bit, but as Gadhafi's forces have marched to the east, you watch the shift in the balance of power.

The government taking control here, some of these other areas. (Inaudible) especially in a battle tonight. You see the opposition controls less and less ground as things play out including these key inhalations here, oil and gas towns right here.

So how will this U.N. vote impact not only the military struggle, but Gadhafi's effort to hold power? Let's go live to Tripoli with CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. Nic --

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I think we have an idea of just how concerned the Gadhafi regime was about this vote. Just as the vote was taking place, I got a call from one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Saadi El Gadhafi. He said the government was going to change tactics around Benghazi. That the army wouldn't go in the city, but they'll put up positions around Benghazi to help people get out of the city. He said the government would send in police and counter terrorism forces, rather than the full force of the army to deal with the terrorists, as he called them.

It's not clear if they're going to be able to execute that now with this vote by the U.N. Security Council, but this shows you how much they're thinking that they're going to this get away with the no- fly zone not being imposed and how concerned they were as they saw it baring down upon them.

One thing we can say that Gadhafi is very likely to do, any international intervention here, he is likely going to use to try to build support around him. He's been always over the past three weeks saying that this opposition is trying to bring in international intervention, bring in the old colonialists, divide the country.

So any step by the international community to act in Libya will be an excuse for Gadhafi to ramp up that rhetoric and try to build unity and build support because there will be many people here who won't want to see international intervention.

They're had been concerned about the possibility of an escalation here. So this is how we're likely to see it play out. But of course, it's going to very much dent the military ambitions of this government at the moment.

We're going to have to see how much they try to push the envelope, but they've heard now it can be hours before a strike can go ahead, John.

KING: Nic Robertson for us in Tripoli. We'll keep in touch with Nic as this dramatic development unfolds. Let me show you over here. I want to give you a sense. We have heard Secretary Gates and others in the administration voicing concerning about what a no-fly zone. That's this little red bubble here.

Essentially establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, how would that happen? We'll, here's one thing to look at. These are major Libyan military installations where Moammar Gadhafi can and has been flying some of his jets.

Now one of the things you can do, we've shown you this before, is just take tout the runways by airstrikes in the runways can cause those potholes. But they can also be quickly filled in and planes can keep going. So what Secretary Gates has been very concerned about we are told is this right here.

An extensive surface to air missile system, most of it here along the oil and energy part of the coast here, significant anti-aircraft weapons surface to air missiles that the secretary of defense has said must be taken out.

Must be taken out as part of any no-fly zone so that U.S. and any other pilots participating would not be put at risk so we have to watch all this play out and we have to watch the organization of the no-fly zone, but if you take this away and you close these down, and you come back a bit.

One of the concerns you also get here is how much the balance of power shifted here. Again, if you bring this over, this is where we are now. The question is, can the opposition hold out? Can it regroup? There are reports tonight that there are arms coming in from Egypt to arm the opposition with the blessing of the United States government. That's a "Wall Street Journal" report. We have yet unable to confirm.

But can they regroup here as all this plays out is a dramatic question tonight and something we need to watch in the days and hours ahead. We also are told there's a possibility that before any no-fly zone can be organized that the United States, NATO allies or others could use cruise missiles, other air strikes to essentially signal to Gadhafi that they are not afraid to use the new powers granted to them by the United Nations.

We will stay on top of this story, but now to the latest on the nuclear crisis in Japan. There's one positive sign tonight, but several new troubling developments. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports Japanese officials have finally succeeded in a running a new source of electricity to the Fukushima nuclear complex where all six reactors still have cooling problems.

But we have no indication as of yet that major new pumping or cooling operations are under way. In an alarming turn, the temperatures in the spent fuel storage areas in reactors five and six are on the rise, and the utility says it is racing to add water to those tanks.

The lack of electricity has forced desperate measures. At first glance this looks impressive, helicopters flying over the Fukushima nuclear site. Four runs in all now, we're told each dropping about 7- 1/2 tons of seawater, but those choppers stayed at higher altitudes because of the dangerous radiation levels. You can see as the water drops, some of it scattered away by steady winds. Water cannons also delivered another 70 tons of water or so. Again, better than nothing, but not enough to significantly improve the precarious situation like pouring a few gallons of water on a wildfire.

That's how a top Obama administration official monitoring the crisis described it to me tonight. CNN's Anderson Cooper is live for us in Tokyo. And Anderson, you keep hearing, well, we finally have an electrical line up there, but we haven't seen any evidence there pumping.

We were told reactors 3 and 4 in the spent fuel there with a major concern and then today they say the temperatures are also rising on the spent fuel and reactors five and six. Every time you get seems to be one step forward, it's two steps back.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to take you another step back right now because we've heard from an official at TEPCO, the company which in charge of this operation on the ground, which is running this plant, it's actually contradicting the IAEA report that they had connected power to reactor number two.

So the positive sign that you just indicated of power being reconnected, which would be a positive sign. TEPCPO is saying that in fact has not happened that the IAEA has that wrong. That was a mistaken report and in fact that they have not reconnected power.

Why this is important is the lack of power, the drop in power when power went out after the tsunami, that's what began all of this terrible chain of events. So they're trying to get in a new power line and connect it up so they can restart these cooling systems.

But again at this point, that has not occurred. TEPCO says they hope that they're going to try to do that today, but frankly, they also yesterday they said they would try to do it yesterday. They are overwhelmed in trying to respond to this ever growing list of issues.

As you said, what they have been focusing on over the last 24 hours has been reactor number three and trying to cool the spent fuel rods and the pool in reactor number three. There's also been a drop in pressure in reactor number three, which could indicate some sort of a rupture.

In order to cool down those spent fuel rods in reactor number three, as you said they brought in the helicopters, but the high winds blowing thankfully whatever radiation is released out at least out to sea, that makes it very hard to drop water.

So only one of the helicopters was actually able to drop water, about seven tons of water onto the spent fuel rod pool, but that is not nearly enough. They brought in multiple vehicles with water cannons, the kind that riot police used. The riot police tried to get within about 50 yards. They had to fall back because of high levels of radiation.

So they brought in other water trucks run by the military. They were able to spray water last night for about an hour. We're now told they brought in more trucks today, but that they have not yet begun ground operations to spray more water. It is very difficult, as you say now.

There's also a problem in reactor number four. Remember, it was yesterday the United States said it was going on reactor number four is of huge concerns. They say there's little or no water in the spent fuel rod pools. If that is in fact true, the Japanese officials say frankly they don't know whether or not there's water there or not.

They think there is, but they can't say for sure. If what the U.S. says is true and there's not water in there. That means the spent fuel rods are exposed and emitting radiation into the air. That's obviously a huge concern, John.

So there are multiple issues going on right now and at this point, you know, U.S. authorities have again kept this 50-mile exclusion zone suggesting U.S. personnel should get out in a 50-mile radius. There are voluntary evacuations to dependents of American government personnel here in Japan. It is a very fluid situation, John. This thing is changing by the hour.

KING: Anderson cooper live for us in Tokyo right now. Remember, Anderson will be back with "AC 360" coming up just a few hours here. We have more correspondence on the ground as well.

Anderson we'll have them in the program. We'll check in with them when we come back including the latest on more troubling indications at the nuclear complex that overheating continues and the lack of cooling remains a huge problem including as Anderson just noted there still no electricity restored at the site.

We'll break that down for you just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's Friday morning now in Japan, the end of a workweek like no other in the post-war era. It was Friday afternoon a week ago now that the earth trembled, a record 9.0 magnitude quake followed by a giant and punishing tsunami. Here is what we know as we approach one week later.

All six of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex remain in some level of distress tonight. The conditions of pools designed to cool spent nuclear fuel rods at reactors three, four, five and six, four of the six reactors, the biggest warrior right now.

The total of last Friday's quake and tsunami is climbing by the hour, 5,692 confirmed deaths and almost 10,000, maybe more still missing. Shortages of food, water and other basic supplies are reported across Japan and shortages of cash at some ATMs in Tokyo are seen as evidence of growing anxiety about the problems bringing the nuclear crisis under control.

Here in Washington President Obama visited the Japanese Embassy, wrote a note and a message of support in the guest book then made a statement at the White House promising an urgent review of safety at American nuclear plants and offering this assurance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, let me repeat that. We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the west Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president also promised any assistance the United States can provide and we are learning more tonight about one important part of that effort. U.S. area reconnaissance and data gathering over the damaged nuclear complex.

A Pentagon source tells me the encouraging part is there is no evidence it's spreading outside of Japan's evacuation zone. But this source also says radiation leaks at the site are constant, constant, and there's little evidence Japan's efforts to bring things under control are yielding any significant progress.

CNN's Anna Coren is part of our great team on the ground in Japan. She joins us live from Tokyo. Anna, I want to start there. We had talked from 50 employees left at the plants. They got it up to about 180 yesterday. Have they been able to add reinforcements in the middle of this crisis?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I understand the number has grown to 300. That's the number of workers inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant trying to contain the situation. We understand they're working around the clocks in shifts of 50 hence being dubbed the Fukushima 50.

But these are men who have volunteered to do this job and really take some serious risks. Now you talk about the scientific proof. It doesn't necessarily mean fears. We caught up with a number people yesterday outside the immigration bureau.

There was a line of thousands and thousands of foreigners trying to get a re-entry permit. These people live and work in Japan, but they feel it's not safe to stay here. So if it blows up, if this situation gets out of control, they can then leave Japan, wait it out before they return. John --

KING: And Anna, any evidence that is spreading to the Japanese people themselves, in the sense that there is a crisis of confidence, not only in the Tokyo electric power company that controls this complex.

But a crisis of confidence and the last of trust in the information that we're hearing and I assume the Japanese people feel these themselves from their own government.

COREN: They're a very proud and conservative race of people. So while there's all this alarm and fear among foreigners who want to get out, I would say the Japanese are concerned, but remain in calm.

In saying that, we were in a taxi yesterday, and speaking to the taxi driver. He said he doesn't normally have the news on and the television monitor on. He's been closely watching it, wanting to know what is happening.

His concern is the lack of transparency and openness from the government. He needs more information to know what is happening. It's that lack of information that is really concerning people, John.

KING: Anna Coren for us live from Tokyo tonight. Thank you, Anna. We'll keep in touch and turning now to Arnie Gundersen. He's been with us several nights now, a nuclear safety advocate who consults with Vermont State government about the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

And Arnie, we've talked about this. You are intimately familiar with the design of these reactors that are in distress at this complex. I don't want to use this term lightly, but it almost sounds like - in the sense that you hear in one moment while we think we've made a little progress here.

And then within an hour you hear of another crisis. Tonight we're told at three, four, five and six, four of the six reactors, there are deep concerns about over heating spent fuel, the old nuclear fuel and perhaps even having the storage pods have significant draining, a lack of water in it. What does that tell you?

ARNIE GUNDERSEN, NUCLEAR SAFETY ADVOCATE: You know, the other saying the sheet is too small for the bed. They pull it to one corner and another corner is exposed. Three hundred people can't do everything that's needed. They're obviously on the most critical component and then suddenly something else does.

Those fuel pools are the single biggest problems on site and the reason is when they dry, the water is in the pools for two reasons. One is to cool the fuel, but the other was to act as a radiation shield.

When the water is gone, the fuel is hot, and that's bad because it's releasing radiation, airborne radiation particles, but the other thing is that the fuel becomes a giant x-ray machine. It sounds out powerful gamma rays. That's what is preventing the trucks and the helicopters from getting too close.

KING: And so I want to show, we have a 3D model of what one of the reactors look like. I want to talk about the spent rods. This is what we're talking about here.

They're in a storage casing like this. It's essentially a big giant tub and the concern has been, Mr. Gundersen, that the water has dropped down and this shows a little bit of exposure. You see, once these rods get exposed, they start to reheat in a dramatic and you've talked about unstable way.

If the water is completely or significantly drained, and we're talking about four of the six reactors where they're having problems with the cooling system and severe problems with it, in the sense of if they had more resources, which they don't have right now.

They can't get people close to this because of radioactivity levels. They don't have electricity up here to be pumping water in a more aggressive, what are we talking about here weeks, months, years?

GUNDERSEN: It's a 15-round fight. We're probably in round three. The radio activity in the pool has been there for six months. Yet, it's still radioactive and still hot. It's like pouring water on a fire. It goes out, and you can continue your camping trip.

Well this nuclear fire, if you will, when you pour water on it one day, you have to go back and do it the same the next and the same the next. You see these dramatic pictures of a truck pouring gallons on a building or a helicopter dropping, but they have to drop about 10,000 gallons a day into each of the fuel pools. They have to spray about 30 or 40,000 gallons a day into the side of that building in order to get this in control. In one day it won't matter because it will all evaporate out again. So you got to do it again the next day and again the next. It's a real long slog.

KING: A real long slog as you put it. I want to close this animation down and bring up another just to look the side. When you have the six reactors and all six of them at the same time have problems. Let me pick one, for example, reactor four. You can see here the significant damage to the structure caused by the quake and tsunami. I want to bring it out a little bit.

The red area is areas where they've had distress. That's essentially in the frame of this building. They've had explosions and fires. This is just reactor number four. Right here is where the spent fuel is.

In terms o as this goes on and we're about to hit the one week mark, Mr. Gundersen, in terms of the long-term radiation escaping, how significant is the risk if they continue to have problems? And again, this is only one of the six?

GUNDERSEN: Well, in your previous segment you talked about contamination out in the evacuation zones. They're already experiencing contamination out to 15 or 20 miles. That's part of radiation drifting almost like soot and that will continue until that pool is full.

The on sight issues are these real high x-rays, high energy x- rays that are keeping the employees from getting too close to be able to fill the pools. So in the best of worlds, if you could fill the pool that would then allow you to keep it full, but if the radiation levels at the pools are so high if someone ran with a fire hose into the pool, they would receive a lethal dose. So it's not something feasible. You have to do it remotely.

KING: Have to do it remotely. The challenge continues. We're going to break this down throughout the hour. We'll go step by step through everything we know and give you as much detail as we can about exactly what is happening in each of the reactors. Again, we'll be back with Mr. Gundersen.

After the break, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to continue this conversation. What are the risks of radiation for the workers in here trying to stop the crisis and for anyone anywhere near that plain in Japan?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we approach one week since the devastating earthquake and then the tsunami struck Japan, the big question, of course, is can they bring the nuclear crisis under control at the complex?

Six reactors in all - all six in varying degrees of distress. There's no electricity. There is some evidence a diesel generator will get some power into reactors five and six. But in all six of these reactors, some degree of distress, which means all the workers there trying to help are exposing themselves to radiation.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live for us in Tokyo right now to talk about this challenge. Dr. Gupta, they were 50 then it got up to 180. Now we're told maybe 300 workers at this complex. As they go about this job, as they are the heroes of this crisis and they're trying to do miracle work at the moment, how risky is this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like it can be potentially very risky for these workers. There are some pieces of information that we don't completely have in terms of just how much radiation any of these individuals are getting.

Let me give you this context really quickly. The best numbers that we've heard is that radiation levels right around the plants or inside the plant are about 3.8 millisieverts per hour. Now that doesn't mean anything to most people. Let me give to you like this. Most people just on average get that amount of radiation in any given year, and this is being given every single hour. That gives you an idea of how much radiation we're talking about.

Look, John, the situation is there's now power in the plants as you know. So there are probably no lights. People are walking around with flashlights. They may have a hazmat suit. They may be wearing a mask with a respirator like this, John. They may have certain devices to help record how much radiation that they're getting.

But, you know, that type of protective equipment does little in protecting against the most dangerous forms of radiation, these gamma rays that we're talking about. These guys know the deal, so they probably have a good idea of how much radiation they're getting.

And you heard about the 50 workers being evacuated and then brought back in. That may have been done to decrease the amount of time of exposure for them. But there's no question, John, as you said, it's a remarkably heroic work.

KING: And help us for some important context, Dr. Gupta, in the sense that in the United States we have seen a run on the iodide pills in pharmacies as people are somehow frightened this radiation gets up into the wind and carries across the Pacific to the United States. Is there any reason, any reason at all for someone in the United States to think this could reach here?

GUPTA: Experts have said quote, unquote, that would be "inconceivable" that there would be harmful levels of radiation reaching the United States. I think that's a pretty strong statement.

The levels of radiation outside the plant, even here in Japan are low. And the area behind me levels have read as high as 20 times normal, which can sound frightening, but it's still exponentially lower than the impact that would cause anything on human health.

So this plume will have radioactive particles in it. There will be detectors across the country. Even the most recent modeling looking at the plume says it may not head towards the west coast. It may head towards the Arctic Circle. It's literally dependent on changes in the wind, John.

KING: When we talked yesterday, Sanjay, you were using the personal device you had on you. You said over the past 36 hours the levels you were exposed to had gone up significantly. Not in a dangerous way, but still gone up. As you're in Tokyo today, is there any evidence that more of it the drifting that way?

GUPTA: Well, we're still wearing these devices. Anderson and I both have these on. Mine reads .006 today, which is somewhat reflective of higher than normal levels of radiation in the area. But again, it's about a thousand-fold lower than of being of concern from a medical held perspective in terms of risk.

I think the levels of radiation are continuously being measured. They're being measured in the air for the most part. It's really what's on the ground that is most significant to us. We haven't seen those types of readings.

But overall, the levels are well elevated. You'll hear detectors going off in Japan certainly, but around the world as a result of what happened in Japan. The confection, as you point out, John, in the context, is this going to make me sick either in the short term or the long term?

There's no evidence, certainly outside of Japan and outside of the evacuation zone or not Fukushima that there will be any held impact. I know that surprises people, but it's surprising to say.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

Once again, let's bring Arnie Gundersen back in the conversation. He's a nuclear safety advocate. Mr. Gundersen, when you hear Dr. Gupta and talk about the levels, what does that tell you as someone who understands the engineering and understands the radioactivity in these plants? What does that tell you in the sense that yes, levels are up a little bit. Is this a crisis confined at the moment to that complex?

ARNIE GUNDERSEN, CHIEF ENGINEER, FAIRWINDS ASSOCIATES: Well, the good news is the wind is blowing out to sea. If the wind were blowing inland, I don't think we would be as well off.

Dr. Gupta's decimeter is designed to pick up these gamma rays. And there's a cloud that gives off gamma rays that would fire it off. But there's also particles that land on your skin or enter through your mouth or through your breathing, and those are not detected by the decimeter. So I don't think the people in Tokyo should be stampeding for the doors or anything like that. If the wind changes, I still have pretty serious concerns.

KING: We know now that the United States military is using drones, unmanned aircraft to fly over the facilities to conduct surveillance. You can see the situation, the shape of the buildings below. But you can also take a lot of readings. If you had access to the data, what would your big question be? GUNDERSEN: I guess I would want to know what isotopes are on the wings of the airplane. When the airplane lands, I would want to sample what material is on the wings of the airplane. My guess is they're going to find cesium and plutonium on the wings of the airplane. And they hang around in the environment a long time, so it really matters what type of contamination the airplane is picking up.

KING: Arnie Gundersen, thank you so much.

I believe Ambassador Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations is speaking after the big vote at the United Nations earlier today to authorize all necessary means. That could be military force in Libya. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: -- a ban on flights in and out of Libya, with a particular a focus on those that may be carrying mercenaries, the designation of additional individuals and core Libyan-owned government companies for asset freezes, and a range of other important measures. Taken together, the elements of resolution 1973 are powerful and they ought to be heed by the Gadhafi regime. I'm happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: You have the resolution to protect Benghazi and the rest of the villages and cities. You have asked for Gadhafi to step down. Isn't it time that you recognize the government or transitional council like France as a region of people -- on a lighter note, how did you get Nigeria and South Africa to go back to the fold?

RICE: We think today's reds lugs is a strong message that reemphasizes what was already in 1970. As many of our colleagues, you heard on the council said and as the United States has said repeatedly, Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy. There is no justification for his continued leadership now that he's perpetrated violence on his own people. We've had the opportunity, as you acknowledged, to meet with the opposition. And we are actively looking at what options may follow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice taking questions after a dramatic vote today. The United Nations Security Council authorizing not only a no-fly zone over Libya but also necessary means to stop the slaughter of civilians. That could bring military action in Libya within hours. We continue to track that development.

When we come back we'll have more on the dramatic changes in the Libya dynamic and also more on the nuclear crisis and the earthquake recovery effort in Japan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the breaking news you need to know right now. The United Nations Security Council just voted to authorize all necessary measures. That includes military force and a no-fly zone to stop the government from slaughtering civilians.

Before the vote Libyan TV warned an attack on the rebels' main stronghold, the city of Benghazi, would start tonight. Arwa Damon of CNN is right there in Benghazi. She joins me live tonight on the phone. The opposition has to be happy that the U.N. has acted, but there must be some concern that it acted too late.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think if there was an emotion beyond happy, that is actually what the opposition is feeling right now. Before this vote took place there was a sense that an attack by Gadhafi's forces --

KING: We've lost the audio from Arwa's connection in Benghazi. We'll try to reestablish that as soon as we can. Pause for just a second and see if we can get Arwa back to us here. I guess we can't.

The threat of military action on Libya on top of the disaster in Japan only adds to the worldwide economic uncertainty. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik joins me from New York now. Alison, we've seen impact from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on the markets. We now have the risk of military force being used in Libya. Give me the sense of anxiety and uncertainty in the markets.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's what you're seeing. That's what we've seen for a while now. With the anxiety in the Mideast, that's what really got everything started. We saw oil prices spike. That could weigh on the economy as far as the recovery goes.

And then the disaster in Japan happened. And that's an open- ended question at this point. How is this going to end? How will this play out? That's keeping the markets on edge. We've seen that play out all week.

Just the Dow Industrial is down 400 points in two sessions. We saw it come back a bit. It ended up 160 points today. The fact is the markets do remain on edge because we don't know what's going to play out in the Mideast or Japan. All of these impact the recovery we're currently in now. John?

KING: We are seeing in terms of supply disruption, some evidence of the Japan impact on production in the United States. Are we not?

KOSIK: We are. That's because a lot of companies have shut down because of safety reasons. A lot of them are companies that we very well know their know names. Toshiba, Sony, Texas Instrument, they have all shut down their plants. These are companies that make things that we often buy, chips for phones, television sets, video games.

And then there's the auto industry. Those production facilities in Japan have shut down, Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. Especially with Toyota John, you're going to see concern about the Prius because the Prius is only built in Japan. And then here's something interesting -- GM is actually suspending production in Louisiana because it's not getting any parts for Japan for at least a week. So what you're seeing is a big ripple effect where production facilities here in the U.S. are shutting down, John.

KING: Alison Kosik, thank you. I believe we've reestablished our connection with Arwa Damon. Before we lost your connection, you had been reporting on the opposition for days, more than a week now saying we need help, we need help. I assume they're grateful for the dramatic United Nations vote tonight. The question is, does it come too late?

DAMON: John, they're not just grateful, they're absolutely exhilarated. Before the resolution was passed there was a genuine sense among the opposition that a massacre by Gadhafi's forces would be imminent, that eventually due to his military might he was going to defeat them and slaughter all of them.

What we saw the moment this resolution was passed was the expressions of fear and anxiety transforming into relief and sheer exhilaration. We were down at the square in front of the courthouse where there was a big TV screen set up, people watching, the crowd erupting in cheers, gunfire all over the place, AK-47s, everything you could possibly imagine, fireworks, people using all of their arsenal to literally fire into the air, not to fight this time, but to express their gratitude.

So many people we went up and talked to were so moved they were practically in tears, barely able to say thank you to the international community. This is a population that really thought it was going to have to fight this to the death. That do fear it may have come too late, especially given the threats of the Gadhafi camp. But at least now they believe they're not in this alone, John, and that to them is so important.

KING: So important, Arwa, and it's critical. It's a dramatic step for the United States to authorize not only a no-fly zone but military force. At the moment, it is a piece of paper. What specifically is the expectation of the opposition? What do they believe will happen in the coming hours to prove to Gadhafi this is not just diplomats talking and voting?

DAMON: I think they would expected to see if Gadhafi would make another move to carry out an airstrike or even push the front line further they have that the international community as this point does have the authority to take action. That is exactly what they would want to see happen.

We have the fighting still centered around the city, impossible to tell how this resolution is playing out on the front lines. But people do believe and do expect that this is going to have to be the beginning of the end of the bloodshed. They are going to stand firm in their determination.

They now feel if Gadhafi were to attack them, push this even further, were the battle to continue, that's where the international community is going to come and stand with this them. The people here believe stand on the side of freedom and democracy as opposed to siding with Gadhafi, because that's how people are viewing the prolonged debates.

So many people saying to us that the longer this was drawing out, the more blood was not just on Gadhafi's hands, but on the hands of the international community. People now are going to be fully expecting all the players involved to be taking an active and immediate role, especially with the threat from the Gadhafi camp.

KING: Arwa Damon live for us on a pivotal night in the Libya crisis. The United Nations Security Council voting to authorize a no- fly zone and all necessary means, and that could mean military force to stop the slaughter of Libyan civilians.

We'll also go back when we return live to Japan dealing with a nuclear crisis in nearly one week into the recovery effort after the earthquake and tsunami.

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KING: Cold and snow are hampering rescue efforts in Japan where a week after the deadly earthquake and tsunami, nearly 10,000 people remain missing and close to a half-million are living in shelters.

CNN's Brian Todd is with the U.S. search and rescue team, and we've seen a dramatic increase in frustration with Japan's government. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, right behind me, members of the L.A. county search and rescue team are getting ready for their next deployment. You mentioned frustration. That's a good point to make. On a given day, like today when they're ready to fan out, it's not clear where they're going to be going. They have to wait for orders, for negotiation between the U.S. and Japanese governments about where it might be best to send them.

The teams are used to light, rapid deployment in disaster zones. In some cases here, they're not able to do it as fast as they would like. Every movement that they make, every time they fan out into a given city, that has to be negotiated with the Japanese government. It has to be coordinated with other rescue teams, other nations. Can you go into the city, is someone else there, will the Japanese allow it. Culturally, will the city be OK with western rescue teams coming in here.

It is all very political, very sensitive at this point. And it does lead to some level of frustration. We've had a lot of back channel conversations with some of the team leaders here about how that kind of -- it does get to them a little.

But they are clear to say they understand why this has to happen. That the Japanese are very sensitive about this, they have to do it their own way and if you don't follow the way they want to do this, you won't be invited back in situations like this. And that doesn't help anybody.

KING: And Brian, let me ask you, we're at the week point now. Is there any realistic hope that there are still people to be found alive?

TODD: John, technically, they will say yes, there is a hope that people can be found alive. They have seen extraordinary things of people hunkered down in places you would never imagine. But realistically they know that the situation is very, very bleak. A tsunami is a completely different thing from an earthquake in Haiti. In Haiti, you could find the structure was down, weather was OK, you could get in and find people alive.

A tsunami can really sweep people away. One of the rescuers just told me that in a tsunami like this many of the victims, many of the people who were killed are carried out to sea. So not only are they not finding survivors, you're not even finding people designee deceased.

KING: Brain, appreciate it. Stay safe.

When we come back, the latest on the two dramatic breaking news stories tonight -- a vote to authorize force in Libya by the United Nations and Japan still grappling, and indications one or two things getting better but others getting worse in the nuclear crisis.

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KING: You're looking at pictures, live pictures from Tripoli, a pro-Gadhafi rally the capital of Libya on what could be a momentous turning point in the Libya political crisis. As you watch this play out, the United Nations a little more than an hour ago voting to authorize a no-fly zone and all necessary means. That could mean military force against the Libyan regime.

It has been pressing east to battle the opposition, to take back a no-fly zone over the country here. Where could the first strikes come from? Perhaps U.S. naval vessels. Cruise missiles could be involved. There are NATO air bases that could be used in any no-fly zone.

One immediate concern, the Libyan military, while not powerful, has a strong anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile system here. Watch for strikes on these position first in the days ahead. We'll be on top this story tomorrow as well as the Japan crisis. "In the Arena" is right now.