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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN International's World One
Aired March 17, 2011 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: The race to cool down an overheating nuclear reactor. Japan sends in helicopters to douse it with water.
ERROL BARNETT, HOST: With radiation levels dangerously high, water cannons are now being brought in to try and prevent a meltdown.
RAJPAL: Hello. It is 6:00 P.M. in Tokyo. It is 5:00 A.M. in Washington. I'm Monita Rajpal in London.
BARNETT: And I'm Errol Barnett, here in Abu Dhabi. You're watching WORLD ONE.
Heading for the exit. As the nuclear threat persists, foreign visitors, they're packing their bags.
RAJPAL: There are still some places devastated by the tsunami that no rescue teams have reached as the snow comes down. Japan's winter weather makes life even harder for the survivors.
BARNETT: Moammar Gadhafi's troops gain ground from the rebels as diplomats outside Libya consider a no-fly zone.
RAJPAL: But first, Japan's race to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Workers at a crippled nuclear power station are using everything they've got to try and regain control of the most badly damaged reactor. They could be exposing themselves to radiation, but officials say they can't afford to pull emergency staff out of the complex.
The recovery effort of the Fukushima plant entered a new phase Thursday, helicopters dropping 7.5 tons of seawater on the number 3 reactor to try to stop fuel rods from overheating. The cooling system was knocked out by last Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
A hundred and eighty workers are staying put to battle the threat of meltdown. The next move will be to use water cannon on the reactors. The top priority now is getting the temperature down at the number 3 reactor.
They're also trying to restore electric power to the plant. It has been off since Friday, but if they can get it back on, they can restart the cooling system using seawater.
BARNETT: Meanwhile, Monita, the top U.S. nuclear official says that in another reactor at the site, number 4, spent fuel rods have indeed been exposed. Gregory Jaczko told Congress Wednesday that there was no water in the pool where spent fuel is stored and that's led to extremely high levels of radiation leaking out. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How dangerous is the radiation right now? Folks in this vicinity of this reactor, are they in danger of dying?
GREGORY JACZKO, U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: Well, the - our understanding is that there are very high radiation levels near - near some parts of the reactor site. I don't want to go too much into the details, but they - they are very - very high levels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNETT: Meanwhile, Japanese government and power company officials dispute one of Jaczko's main observations. They say there is water in the spent nuclear fuel pool and they've not seen dangerous radiation levels outside the immediate area around the reactors.
Now, this is a - a dangerous situation, so Japanese authorities have evacuated the 20-kilometer radius around the power station, forcing some 200,000 people to leave their homes. No flights are allowed within a 30-kilometer, that's about 18 miles radius, except for helicopters sent in to drop water. And people living between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant, they're being advised right now to stay indoors.
Now, other governments are actually widening the danger zone. The U.S., for example, is chartering planes to evacuate diplomatic staff and their families from Tokyo and other cities. The U.S. Military is telling its people not to get within 80 kilometers of Fukushima. That's about 50 miles.
Australia also said its citizens should get at least the same distance, 80 kilometers, 50 miles away. South Korea's government is advising people within that radius of the nuclear plant to get further away or stay indoors. And the French prime minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, has advised citizens who were able to get away, (INAUDIBLE) to head for the south of Japan or leave the country altogether.
RAJPAL: Well, let's get the very latest on the crisis now from our senior international correspondent Stan Grant in Tokyo.
Stan, so we're hearing the American, the French, the South Koreans advising their citizens to move further away from the radius that the Japanese advised its own citizens. What do they know that we don't know?
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're drawing on the information that the Japanese are providing and they're extrapolating from that and coming up with their own assessments and their own assessments about what they believed is appropriate for their citizens' needs. Now, the Japanese are maintaining that based on the figures that they have for the radiation levels that the 20 kilometer radius is appropriate, although there's also a warning for people within 30 kilometers to also try to stay indoors and avoid coming in contact with hazardous material.
The problem with all of this, Monita, is exactly pinning down what the radiation levels are, the extent of risk, what sort of radioactive material is in it. Now, I spent a lot of time poring over this information day by day, almost going minute by minute in - in the radiation readouts from inside the plant, and I can tell you that they fluctuate very, very widely, depending on what part of the plant you're actually taking the measurement.
Now, just as an example, earlier today, during the morning, they took a measurement of about 4,000 microsieverts per hour. Now, that was at that central building of the plant. But a few hours later it had dropped to 350 microsieverts and that was at the gate of the plant.
So you can see how that really - that really swings so widely, so trying to get a reading on the radiation level, the level of exposure, how long can workers be exposed to it, what sort of potential health risks there might be, not just now but into the future makes it very, very difficult. And of course when you have an information flow like that, uncertain data, uncertain detail, people fill that information gap with their own fears and that's perfectly understandable. That's what we're seeing right now, Monita.
RAJPAL: Meanwhile, the situation at the nuclear power plant, those emergency workers are still there. What do we know about the latest in terms of how, I guess, under control, if not - or not things are?
GRANT: Yes. Right now they've been using helicopters, I think as you just mentioned there, to drop water onto the stricken reactors. Now, they did four drops today for about seven tons of water. They do need to do way more than that. I think they need to go for around - they're aiming for about 100 drops, but they operated during the morning.
Now, they've moved those water trucks in, as well. You mentioned there was one truck there from the police that's pumping water in. Well, the military is sending five trucks in as well and they're going to be pumping more water in. In fact it was due to begin around about now. We'll check on those details and get back to you on that.
But it's interesting with that as well because initially they were going to try to draw water from the ocean and then into the truck and continually pump the sea water in, but that was going to be too dangerous. It would have meant that people would have had to get out of the truck. What they're going to do is keep the workers inside the truck, minimize risk and try to pump that water into the reactors - Monita.
RAJPAL: Stan Grant in Tokyo, thank you. BARNETT: Now, of course, earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world with little or no warning, but they are more likely to occur along the earth's plate boundaries. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, estimates that a full 20 percent of all of the world's commercial nuclear power reactors, they are in areas of significant seismic activity.
You see them here, the shaded areas on your map. We'll call them earthquake zones. Now, the dots that you're seeing represent the world's 442 operable power reactors.
RAJPAL: Errol, you know, it's difficult to imagine just how one would cope in a situation that the Japanese are in, but the strength that the nation has shown is remarkable and has not gone unnoticed.
In Australia, the "Daily Telegraph" headline is "Resilience in the face of catastrophe." The paper says, "No looting, no whining. Very little panic, if any, and no demands for some mythical 'them' to fix it. The stories are heartbreaking and at the same time uplifting, as the best of humanity comes to the fore.
In Thailand, "The Nation" newspaper says, "Catastrophe, the fragility of life and the resilience of spirit. It goes on to say, "The Japanese's ability to overcome disaster is deeply rooted in their spirit and it is the norm rather than the exception. This unbreakable determination toward reconstruction is a central tenet of Japanese culture."
And then the headline in "The Scotsman" says, "Stoic Japanese will bounce back." It says, "For a country to have survived on the Pacific Ring of Fire to become one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced economies would be unthinkable without a tolerance of risk being hard-wired into the system.
You can read all those articles in full at Facebook.com/W1CNN. You could also find a link to our "Impact Your World" page to see how you can help - Errol.
BARNETT: Certainly good to see those hopeful messages there.
You're watching WORLD ONE. A pivotal battle may be looming in Libya. We'll fill you in on the coming showdown and the civil war under way. Stay with us.
RAJPAL: Hello. You're watching WORLD ONE. I'm Monita Rajpal in London.
BARNETT: And I'm Errol Barnett in Abu Dhabi.
Fighting continues to rage in Libya as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi push deep into the eastern half of the country. The City of Ajdabiya has come under heavy bombardment. It's the last major city between government forces and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Arwa Damon is in Benghazi and she joins us now. Arwa, not only is it dangerous for civilians there, but I understand four journalists for the "The New York Times" are missing at this hour. What can you tell us about the latest situation on the ground?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Errol.
We've been trying to reach out to people in Ajdabiya to try to see what the update is on the situation there given that it was coming under such intense heavy bombardment yesterday. Fighting there are continuing as far as we are aware of well into the night with Colonel Gadhafi's forces continuing to literally trying to bomb their way to Benghazi. They've been using air strikes. They've been heavy artillery bombardment.
Eyewitnesses we were talking to yesterday were telling us about sniper positions set up inside Ajdabiya itself. People here in Benghazi naturally growing very concerned and very frustrated with the international community. People demonstrating yesterday in front of the courthouse in Benghazi. We were walking alongside a group of women who were carrying a sign that's spelled it out quite simply from their perspective. It said how many Libyans need to die before the United Nations to take action.
People fail to understand how it is that if the international community is continuing to see the images of the violence, of the fighting in Libya, they can continue to stand by idly. There's been a lot of talk at the United Nations about a no-fly zone, a lot of perceived movement in that direction, but it has yet to materialize.
There is the concern that perhaps the opposition has taken this as far as they can, but in the face of Gadhafi's military might, no one knows how long they're really going to be able to hold out. As for the fate of those four "The New York Times" journalists, unfortunately as far as we are aware their status is still missing, Errol.
BARNETT: All right. That is Arwa Damon live for us in Benghazi, Libya.
RAJPAL: You're watching WORLD ONE.
BARNETT: For people in Japan's northeast, surviving Friday's tsunami was just the start of the battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HIROMI HARAGUCHI, KAMAISHI RESIDENT (through translator): Well, to be frank, I need a bath and stuff like that, but I know it's too much to ask. It's so cold here. We need kerosene and we need petrol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNETT: Never mind rebuilding, for now it's a struggle to survive.
BARNETT: Welcome back. You're watching WORLD ONE. I'm Errol Barnett in Abu Dhabi.
RAJPAL: I'm Monita Rajpal in London. These are our top stories.
Officials at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant are scrambling to prevent a nuclear crisis from getting even worse. They've used helicopters to drop tons of seawater onto the Number Three reactor. It has been heating up since Friday's earthquake and tsunami knocked out the cooling system. Engineers are trying to restore electric power to allow cooling mechanisms to be switched back on.
BARNETT: Take a look at these pictures. They were taken in the Miyagi Prefecture. That's one of the hardest hit areas of Japan. The number of people known to have died there as a result of Friday's disaster, that continues to rise. Japan's National Police Agency now puts it officially at 5,429 people, but there are more than 9,500 still missing today.
RAJPAL: For days now, we've been bringing you horrific images of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, but the pictures you're about to see almost defy belief.
ITN's Alex Thompson reached a devastated coastal town whose residents paid a heavy price for putting trust in their seawall.
ALEX THOMPSON, CHANNEL 4 NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army aid convoys heading east over the central mountains into the quake zone this morning. Several Japanese have asked me, what have we done to deserve a historically powerful earthquake, this vast tsunami damage - and now the blizzards?
With officials here now saying more than 4,000 people are confirmed dead, we've come to the east coast to see how far search and rescue for bodies has gone in this vast area of damage. Our driver, Shin (ph), just can't believe what he's seeing. He was last here on holiday several years ago.
HARAGUCHI: The tsunami reached up there. There's only five homes left up there. All the rest are destroyed.
THOMPSON: At the coast, we meet Hiromi and his plea to the wider world, that of so very many here, it's freezing. We need blankets but much more.
HARAGUCHI: Well, to be frank, I need a bath and stuff like that, but I know it's too much to ask. It's so cold here. We need kerosene and we need petrol.
THOMPSON: We had seen towns wrecked, factories pulverized, but never roads, bridges and the vast anti-tsunami sea defenses here at Kamaishi smashed like they were today.
And Hiromi had been good enough to explain to us exactly what happened here six days ago.
THOMPSON (on camera): It was about half an hour after the last of the earth tremors finished, people noticed that this entire bay began simply emptying of the water, the tide went out way beyond the red hulk of the red ship you can see there, out even beyond the lighthouse which you can just see sticking up in the snow. The entire bay was emptied of water and it stayed that way for some moment.
Then, people living here described an enormous rushing, roaring sound. It was the tsunami approaching at 15 - 20 miles an hour, pushing everything before it. Right up, right through this bay, the people living in the village in the corner there, many of them stayed put. They never had problems with tsunamis before. They've come and gone, no issue.
On this occasion, things were very different.
THOMPSON (voice-over): We decided to try and get there. Clearly no vehicles are going anywhere near. And look at the size of these supposed tsunami defenses, high enough, thick enough, long enough so everybody thought.
An entire town stripped away to the elaborate foundations of houses designed to withstand earthquakes, yes, but a tsunami of this scale, certainly not.
We finally reached the part of the town where local people had said many stayed believing they'd be safe. Family property and effects strewn around everywhere demonstrating these people's faith in the vast ramparts of their seawalls was fatally misplaced.
THOMPSON (on camera): Just look at it. There is no way you could get a vehicle anywhere near this village. Walking in is bad enough. There's no footprints in the snow. There are no footprints in the mud for that matter.
If the buildings or any vehicles here had been checked by search and rescue teams for bodies, there would be spray signs, aerosol on them to indicate that. There's nothing like that here at all. It's pretty clear this village has not been reached. And I have to tell you there is a fairly strong smell of decay coming from the buildings behind me, particularly that garage just there.
THOMPSON (voice-over): One small example in one small village of the enormous job here in Japan simply to locate the bodies, let alone begin clearing up this mess.
Nearby on the seawall, the broken seawall, the warning notice for the tsunamis survives. But how many of the people here did so? That will take some time to become clear.
Alex Thompson, Channel 4 News, Kamaishi.
BARNETT: A sobering look there at that coastal town and beyond those freezing temperatures and the snow that are making things challenging for survivors. You can add into that winds which are now complicating the effort to cool down nuclear reactors.
For more on this, we're going to bring in Ivan Cabrera. He's our meteorologist at the International Weather Center. Ivan, how are the winds and the environment just adding to some of the concerns right now?
IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it couldn't get worse. We're just throwing everything into the fire here. It's just unfortunate.
The one good thing about the wind, it's twofold here, well, we have the situation where the wind is blowing any radiation offshore, but it is also, as you mentioned, Errol, hampering the efforts to try and get those water drops on top of the spent fuel pools there that are or are not exposed. We don't know yet, but we've got to continue that work and it's hard to do so with the winds, the way they have.
Take a look at the temperatures. This is for, of course, the folks that are on the ground. Keep in mind, we have hundreds of thousands of people without power across Northern Japan and temperatures at night are going subfreezing with the wind chill out there makes it feel even colder, so there are some very uncomfortable folks out there and, of course, outside it's going to be downright dangerous.
Winds, again, are very gusty out of the north and west at 50 to 60 kilometers, hampering the efforts there with the nuclear power plant, but also any kind of offshore wind, any westerly component to the wind that we can have is going to be better for the folks that are at the ground near the site there.
Take a look at some of the totals. Upwards of 18 centimeters of snowfall to the west, higher elevation here so that produces a higher snowfall amount. Towards Sendai, we've been generating about one centimeter, which is enough to cover the ground there and make for the workers that are out there searching and going through that rubble just almost an impossible job just because of the snow that's on there, you can't tell what's beneath you at times.
Snow is going to continue here but we are going to change our pattern, I do think. This low is going to move off to the north and east and our big blue "H" is going to move in. That is going to provide us with a southwesterly wind, which is going to be a good thing. We're still going to have a westerly component, things blowing this way. But, as that feature comes on in, we are going to be talking about much milder temperatures, in fact, the temperatures are going to go even above average. We're going to go from 3, guys, to 11 degrees by the time we get into Saturday and that is welcome news indeed.
Back to you.
RAJPAL: Ivan, thank you very much. You're watching WORLD ONE. BARNETT: The homeless and the heartbroken. Evacuation centers run short on supplies, but high on emotions as survivors wait for news of their loved ones, just ahead here on WORLD ONE.
MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR, WORLD ONE: You're watching WORLD ONE. I'm Monita Rajpal in London.
ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR, WORLD ONE: And I'm Errol Barnett in Abu Dhabi . Our top stories for you, Japan is our lead as officials at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant scramble to prevent a major nuclear crisis from getting worse. Now they have used helicopters to drop tons of seawater, primarily on the roof of No. 3 reactor. Cooling the reactor is the top priority. Engineers are also trying to restore power to the plant. It's been shut off since the earthquake struck on Friday.
RAJPAL: These pictures were taken in the Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas worst hit. The number of people known to have died as a result of Friday's disaster continues to rise. Japan's national police agency says more than 5,400 people have been killed, and 9,500 are missing.
BARNETT: We're also following events in Libya, where government soldiers pounded the city of Ajdabiya with air strikes and artillery. You see Ajdabiya is the last stronghold between Colonel Gadhafi's forces and the heart of the rebellion in Benghazi.
Diplomats at the U.N. are still discussing the possibility of a no-fly zone over the country. Members say they expect to see a draft resolution soon. Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, who split from the Gadhafi regime said the Libyan ruler would commit genocide against rebels if the international community did not intervene.
All right. Let's move back to events unfolding in Japan. The crisis right now under way at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Now, the focus, as I mentioned, is on stopping temperatures rising in the No. 3 reactor. They are using helicopters and water cannons right now basically anything that they believe can make a difference. Tom Foreman takes a look at the damage and challenges ahead.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the closest picture we've had up until this point of what is essentially the battleground against these nuclear reactors. Look at the extent of the damage here, damage to the superstructure here, damage to the metalwork in here, damage to the piping down here. You can see one of the challenges that these workers are facing is even if they can get electricity and water flowing in, in plenty of supply, how do you get it where it belongs? How do you keep it in here? It's like pouring water into a cracked teacup.
Let's beyond this, though, to look at the overall picture of what has happened here. If you look at these reactors, No. 1, over here, has had a tremendous amount of damage, hydrogen explosion early on. We move to No. 2, they have had damage as well, an explosion, possible damage to the container itself. No. 3, the one we were just looking at a moment ago, an explosion there, a possible structural tear. Important to note this is the only one that actually has plutonium in it, in addition to uranium, which makes it more dangerous in many ways. And here's reactor No. 4, the one we've been talking about so much.
They've explosions there. They have had fires there. And the real issue continues to be these rods right up in here, the spent storage rods, and whether or not they have been exposed with no water on them, nothing to protect them at all from the elements. If that's the case, if this water level has in fact, as U.S. officials think, drained completely off, you're talking about tremendous amounts of radiation coming out from here. Radiation so hot, you saw the helicopters flying over earlier trying to drop water on it, we measured it. They're roughly somewhere between 60 and 100 meters above this. That's how high they have to be away because this radiation would potentially be lethal at 60 to 100 meters.
So the simple truth is as we look at this equation, one of the real fears is that we simply have such a hot zone in terms of radiation, that it's hard for the people who are trying to fight it to even get close. If they get close, they can't stay there long. And it's difficult to fight an enemy if you can't get up next to them and engage the battle.
RAJPAL: That's Tom Foreman, reporting there.
You see them plastered on the walls of every evacuation center in the quake zone and beyond, notes from survivors looking for their loved ones. But as the days go by the chances of finding anyone else alive are dwindling fast. CNN's Brian Todd joins us now with an update on the search operations in Japan.
And I think, Todd, that's probably where this catastrophe really hits home. It's the human face of this disaster when you see people looking at those lists, looking for the names of their loved ones.
BRIAN TODD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Monita.
And it is increasingly likely for many of them that they may never hear from their loved ones again. Because we're with urban search and rescue team from the United States coming through some of the hardest hit areas, and the likelihood of finding survivors here just keeps dwindling. And the situation just keeps getting more bleak.
We just came from a town called Unosumai (ph) a small town on an inlet a little bit north of here, about 40 miles north of here, on the east coast of Japan. And the entire town was leveled. The entire town is gone. In most places in Japan they can claim that some neighborhoods survived. Some sections escaped the wrath of the tsunami. Not in Unosumai (ph). We just came from there. We'll be sending footage shortly but there is really nothing left of that town. Some people who did get out, got to higher ground, are now coming back looking shell-shocked, picking through their belongings. Again, asking about loved ones. And just maybe just starting to get their minds around what happened. But in the towns we've gone to these teams have not found any survivors.
RAJPAL: The pictures, they pretty much describe how badly decimated and devastated these towns are. And they give us an idea of just the overwhelming task that is ahead of the rescue workers, the emergency workers. Describe for us what they are having to go through, these people as they try to get into these towns to look for family members.
TODD: Well, it is very treacherous. It's treacherous under normal circumstances, but it has also been complicated now by the weather. It started snowing over the last few days. That really makes it more treacherous for these workers to try to get inside these collapsed structures, to navigate piles of rubble, when there is a huge film of snow on it. It might could cover a void a some kind of a crevice that you don't see is there. And you step in it and you go 10 feet down. That's really a problem here at this point.
What they have to do typically, Monita, is go into a house that is structurally not very sound or a building two or three or four stories high, that is not structurally sound, and climb through it at great risk to themselves. But they are determined to check any void, any potential room where people could be sheltering because that is an opportunity for rescue. There are all sorts of pockets, voids in buildings, and have to check every one. That's what they're doing right now as they go into these towns. Checking every void, every pocket, of every building they come across.
You have teams from the U.K., the United States, two teams, plus the teams from China and Japan that are out and about as well. And all of them are dividing up these cities in grids and checking, you know, row by row, street by street, building by building. It is painstaking work. It is dangerous work. And unfortunately, so far, they have not found anyone alive.
RAJPAL: Brian Todd, thank you.
BARNETT: And there are more heroes working in Japan. Just imagine being part of the very small team working to get the Japanese nuclear reactor under control. What everyone wondering is, are they putting their own lives in danger? We're going to bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Doctor Sanjay Gupta, who is in Tokyo.
You not only have cold temperatures, Sanjay, but you have workers who are getting very close to possible radiation leaks.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT Yes, there's no question, Errol. And this whole idea these workers are in there putting out fires, trying to stop explosions, turning valves, it's remarkable work. And you're absolutely right. The radiation levels within the plant obviously the highest of all. We've only gotten an idea of the radiation levels outside of the plants, outside of the gates. Those are some of the numbers that are being given to us. But inside that plant, where the workers are working, who knows exactly what they're being subjected to.
There are a few different devices that people can use to try and get an idea of just how much radiation-devices like this, which will give you sort of rads per minute, sort of a reading and this device over here, which can measure all sorts of different radiation including alpha, beta and gamma. But it's very hard to protect yourself in a situation like this. There's certain devices, certain things that can help.
This is a HAZMAT suit, for example, Errol. I don't know how well you can see that. But it is just a suit. And it is not going to protect against some of the most potent forms of invisible radiation. They may be wearing masks, like this, as well, with little respirators on there. But, again, it only offers a little bit of protection from the work they're having to do. So it's remarkable.
Here in Tokyo, you know, some distance away now, radiation levels have increased. Yesterday they were measured in the air at about 20 times normal. But it's safe to say that that is still a very safe level, not dangerous as far as human health goes, Errol.
BARNETT: Well, Sanjay, for people who may have been exposed to radiation and are trying to flee, what happens to radiation already in the body? Because the government, at one point, was passing out iodine tablets to help people break down the substance. So once exposed, what is someone's outlook?
GUPTA: Well, you know, there's sort of different principles, obviously the idea of evacuation putting yourself some distance between the source is going to be a simple yet very important principle. Decreasing the time of exposure and then certainly trying to shield yourself in some way, even getting inside a building can help. If you know you've been exposed, or imminent chance of exposure, taking the potassium iodide tablets can help in terms of preventing, or trying to reducing the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
The principle is pretty simple. You take these tablets which are a stable iodide. It fills your thyroid gland with this stable iodide. Then when the radioactive iodine comes into your body it cannot infiltrate your thyroid gland. And that is how it basically prevents getting thyroid problems and thyroid cancer down the road.
There's other things to consider, as well. The radioactive particles eventually because of their weight will fall to the ground, cows can eat the grass that's been contaminated. The radioactive particles can get concentrated in the milk. So, milk, for example, can be a source of contamination later on down the road.
But again, you know, I don't want to put the cart in front of the horse here. The basic sort of principles are if radiation levels are going up, take your potassium iodine. And you have to get out of there. You have to evacuate. BARNETT: We just don't know how much radiation has, or will be, exposed there in Northeastern Japan. Sanjay Gupta live for us from Tokyo. Thanks.
RAJPAL: You're watching WORLD ONE.
BARNETT: Still to come, the aftershocks, a nuclear crisis, and a desperate urge to get out. Stay with CNN.
BARNETT: Welcome back. You're watching WORLD ONE from Abu Dhabi and London.
Japanese stocks are lower today over fears of a nuclear crisis in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. My colleague Pauline Chiou in Hong Kong joins me now for more on this, with an analysis of how the markets look, and how it's impacting the value of the yen today, Pauline.
PAULINE CHIOU, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Errol, the story about the yen was definitely the talk of the business world today. A financial fallout continues to follow the crisis still unfolding in Japan. Early Thursday morning, in the wee hours of the morning, the Japanese yen hit its strongest level against the dollar since World War II. And that was $1 to 76.25 yen, surpassing its previous highest of 79.75, set back in 1995.
Now, right now the yen is trading against the dollar at 79 yen to the dollar. It's still broke past that 80 high yen mark, which is sort of the psychological barrier. Now a super strong yen is very a big issue. Exporters want a weaker yen. And that's because Japanese companies sell most of their products overseas. When they bring their earnings back home and convert them back into yen, a weaker yen means they make more in profits.
Now, take a look at what's been happening so far this week, since Monday, march 14th. The lower the line, the stronger the yen is to the dollar. And it's been gradually getting stronger throughout the week. And then you see this big dip which symbolizing a big surge in the yen. Now, this happened at around 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, which was early Thursday morning here in the Asia-Pacific Region. This is when that yen surged.
We've spoken to several currency experts and asked them why this happened. They believe this happened because many investors had taken high dollar/yen positions. And that means when the yen strengthened to that psychologically important 80 yen mark, that I just mentioned. It actually triggered a surge of automatic buy orders, which is what we see here. In this major dip, which is a major surge in the strength of the yen.
How did the Nikkei react to all of this today? Well, it closed down nearly 1.5 percent, which is pretty good considering at one point it had fallen nearly 5 percent. And that rebound occurred on the news that Japan was going to make another cash infusion, this time of $60 billion into the financial system.
As for the stocks in some of Japan's main exporters. Let's take a look at some household auto names. You'll recognize them. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, they were all down between about 1 to 2 percent. So still in negative territory, but much better than how they were performing earlier in the week. And markets across Asia, the rest of Asia also reacted to the latest developments in Hong Kong-in Japan, rather. Hong Kong, the Shanghai Composite and Australia all closed down between 1 and 2 percent. Now the Seoul KOSPI was the only index that just managed to eke out a gain, just fractionally in posterity- Errol.
BARNETT: Yes, really just representing all that uncertainty there in the Japanese and Asian markets. Pauline, thanks very much.
RAJPAL: Errol, let's broaden this out a bit more. Joining us from Tokyo is Andy Palmer. He is senior vice president at Nissan, one of Japan's biggest carmakers.
Mr. Palmer, thank you very much for being with us.
We saw our colleague from Hong Kong talking about the surge and record strength of the yen and the kind of impact, I'd like to know, what's happening at Nissan. And what kind of impact that is happening on your exports?
ANDY PALMER, SR. V.P., NISSAN, JAPAN: Well, obviously it's a tough time over the past week or so. Clearly our priority at Nissan has been to secure first and foremost the safety of all of our employees and we have relatively good news there.
After that, of course, we've been trying to make sure our supply trains are up and running and that we've been able to produce cars. Good news today we managed to produce our first cars out of Kyushu. We, basically, of course are producing from the stock we have and the challenges for us right now are making sure our supply chain is in good shape. And that's occupying every waking hour right now.
RAJPAL: What does that -- tell me a little about what that entails in terms of the supply train. You get some of the supplies also from China, but in terms of getting these parts into the country, obviously the whole country is in an emergency situation right now. Getting all of that production back into normal mode must be extremely difficult.
PALMER: It is. It is. Speaking from Nissan, we've created, if you like, an emergency bunker on the eighth floor of our building. We have hundreds of people working there day in and day out, 24/7, basically contacting with suppliers to open those supply chains up. See what kind of capability they have. And obviously making sure our factories are capable of producing cars.
As I say, the good news is we managed to start production in Kyushu, two of our plants in Kyushu, today. And we'll -- there will be another forgoer on Sunday. Now, the problem for us is securing continuity of supply. And, you know, there's a lot of issues. Some of our suppliers have been hit by the tsunami, it gives us some issues. And some of our suppliers even exist within the nuclear exclusion zone. So obviously we're working with them to see whether we can take parts from another location, can we bring parts into the country from other locations? It's tough, but it's what Nissan and the Japanese car industry does best.
RAJPAL: What kind of impact is this going to have on your output in the long run?
PALMER: In the long run, hopefully, hopefully nothing. In the short run, of course, it's creating us problems day by day. And what kind of impact that will have, it really, really depends over the next few days, how quickly we can get that supply chain up. Our factories bar two, all of the car -- all of the assembly factories in Japan, bar two, will be ready to run by this Sunday. But as I say, basically it's the supply chains that supplies them, which is our greatest challenge, number one.
Of course, number two is making sure we can get our people to the factories, that relies on the transportation system. And, number three, is making sure we've got electrical supplies which obviously we're working with the government to try to protect that supply.
RAJPAL: All right. Andy Palmer, thank you very much for being with us. Good to know most of your staff are OK and safe and we wish you the best of luck in this.
PALMER: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
RAJPAL: WORLD ONE will be right back.
RAJPAL: Welcome back. You are watching WORLD ONE. I'm Monita Rajpal in London.
BARNETT: And I'm Errol Barnett in Abu Dhabi. We're approaching 6:00 a.m. in New York, 7:00 p.m. in Tokyo.
Our top story takes us to Japan where officials at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant are scrambling to prevent a major nuclear crisis from getting worse. The latest plan, using helicopters to drop tons of seawater, mainly on the roof of the plant's No. 3 reactor. Plant owners say cooling that facility is the top priority. Engineers are also trying to restore power to the plant. The power supply has been cut since the quake struck on Friday.
RAJPAL: Of course, the chatter online has been focusing on Japan and our top trending stories, of course, focusing on Japan at No. 3, Global Hawk. There is a lot of interest in the unmanned aircraft in the skies above Japan. The U.S. military is sending the drone up to help assess damage from the air, previously they used it over Haiti, after the earthquake struck just over a year ago. At No. 2, Emperor Akihito, people showing appreciation after his rare address on national television yesterday. It is the first time that Emperor Akihito has spoken to the public at a time of national crisis.
At No. 1, Fukushima Prefecture, authorities have evacuated the entire area within 20 kilometers of the damaged power station. There is a lot of discussion about that online, as people just like us are trying to understand the situation there. For more on all the top stories and links to ways you can help those in Japan, do head to Facebook.com/W1CNN.
You are watching WORLD ONE live. I'm Monita Rajpal in London.
And I'm Errol Barnett in Abu Dhabi. Thanks for joining us.
I want to give you another look at some of the latest pictures we're getting in from Japan taken in Miyagi, where Japanese soldiers are making their way across a sea of devastation and debris.
This is WORLD ONE on CNN.