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Nuclear Crisis in Japan; No-Fly Zone Over Libya?

Aired March 17, 2011 - 17:59   ET



Happening now, breaking news. Helicopters and fire trucks are deployed in a desperate effort to cool an overheated nuclear reactor by dousing it with water. Radiation is still high, but emergency workers may be holding the line.

Some people on the West Coast of the United States worry that radiation could travel 5,000 miles and reach California. We will look at how they're acting on their anxieties.

And we will hear from our reporters on the ground in Japan. Anderson Cooper is standing by in Tokyo.

Wolf Blitzer is traveling back to the United Nations from Tunisia. I'm Candy Crowley, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: The United Nations Security Council is due to vote any minute on a resolution which could authorize a no-fly zone over Libya, and that could also mean airstrikes against forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. The draft to be voted on includes language stating that all necessary means could be used to protect civilians, which could point to action beyond the no-fly zone.

You are looking now at live pictures from the U.N. Gadhafi's troops backed by armor and airpower have been rolling up rebel resistance in town after town. The regime's forces are now targeting opposition strongholds in Eastern Libya.

Radiation levels remain high at the crippled Japanese nuclear plant. But there are signs that workers are holding their own in a desperate battle to avert catastrophe. Authorities have used helicopters and fire trucks to pour water on partially exposed overheated fuel rods. Power company officials say that's been somewhat effective.

And one international nuclear official says there was no significant worsening of the situation today.

We want to go straight to CNN's Anna Coren in Tokyo for the very latest -- Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, we have got a positive development to report.

We're hearing that a power line has been connected from the external grid to reactor two. Now, the plan is to get the power supply coming in to get those fuel pumps, those water pumps pushing water through these reactors. So that is the plan.

We don't know how soon that will happen. But we can confirm that the line, the power line, has been connected to reactor two. The IAEA, they have confirmed this. The chief is due to arrive in Japan today. As you mentioned, the helicopters and water trucks, they were spraying water onto the reactors yesterday, reactor three, in fact, yesterday. That was Japan's main concern, reactor three.

But the IAEA believes that reactor four is the problem. So, that chief, the IAEA chief, he will be on the ground here in Tokyo today speaking to the officials to try to contain the situation -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Anna, you so much from Tokyo.

I think the key thing is that they are making progress on getting power back into the plants, which would be an enormous help to getting those fuel reactors cooled down. Thanks so much.

We want to get a closer look at that effort to cool those fuel rods and preventing a possible meltdown.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking into that.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a reason that this power line has been brought to unit number two first. And I want to show you why.

If we zoom in here, this is unit number two. It's one, two, three and four. This is what this looked like on Monday as the damage sort of settled into that area. If I can get this to move over here and show you basically what we're talking about on number two, you can see how much damage is here on number one, number two, and a little bit on number four; number two looks pretty good. Number one, three, and four have had some damage.

Then if you move to Wednesday, if you fly around here, you can see that the damage has grown more intense on numbers one, three, and four, number two, not so much. And then if you move all the way over here to Thursday, you can still see that numbers one, three, and four have had extensive damage, number two not so much.

I want to zoom in and show some more details of that. What they have seen when they looked at this is they have said maybe a lot of the physical facility was damage. When they look at number two, they see largely an intact building, which means perhaps that the electrical lines, the water lines, all the basic working facilities here may still be working.

Then, if you move over to number three, you see tremendous damage here. And this is where they have focused so much of their efforts. We know they brought in a water cannon from the police department which NHK said could not actually fire far enough to reach this while staying safely back from all of that radiation. There were some fire department-like trucks that were brought in that could actually fire much further, because they were designed to put out, for example, aviation fires in a plane crash. They were able to get water on this.

And then of course we saw the helicopters dropping, but they were dropping from very high up in the air. Nonetheless, they say there was some cooling here of the core and the area where they store the spent rods. But the spent rods remain the biggest issue. And that's over here in number four.

I want to widen out here and show you what we're talking about once again. In number four and in number three, and to some degree in some others as well, the concern is not so much the main part down here, which they're able to say is where the reaction actually would take place, although this one was shut down at the time, but this area over here, the spent rod area, because that is outside of this facility.

The debate on number four all day long has been, is there water there or not? Some on the ground there say there is no water; therefore, it's a huge risk. Others say, yes, there's some water, so it's not the risk that others fear at this moment.

Nonetheless, there's a lot of concern here. So as a practical matter, this is what's happening. Number two is where they're focusing efforts now because it seems like they have the best chance of restoring normal systems there and bringing that one under control.

Number three is where they're focusing most of the cooling efforts because they simply see an opportunity there. And they believe that they might be able to do that. But number four in many ways remains the biggest worry simply because number four has had so much damage. And again, those spent rods are exposed and it's not clear if they have any cooling around them or not -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Tom Foreman. Just when we begin to understand one problem, there seems to be another.

Joining us now, CNN contributor Jim Walsh, an expert on international security at MIT.

Let me ask you first, Mr. Walsh, from the news that you have heard today -- and I want to reemphasize the news that we just heard, and that is that they have completed laying the power line, but it's not yet activated into the reactor. That can't be anything but great news.


Well, first of all, it's the first day since this started that the news wasn't worse than the previous day. So just emotionally I'm feeling a little better about things, because every morning I wake up and I turn on the computer and there's another bad story. So that's good.

It's also good in a more substantial way. That is to say, the goal here is stabilizing the situation. If they can get reactor two settled, as it were, then that reduces the number of problems they have to deal with. They have a limited number of workers. And they have problems -- have had problems at, at least six different plants. That really stretches human capacity to deal with different types of problems across six different sites.

So if they can get one stabilized, that will free up their attention, their resources, their energy, and they can focus on the problems at the others. So I think that's a victory. The third way in which it's useful is that each day that passes with these reactors, presumably they are reactor units one, two, and three, they are getting a little cooler each day, it should be a little easier to manage, and that there's a greater probability that that core containment vessel has, that last line of defense has in fact, not been breached.

There had been speculation it had been damaged. But the question was whether it had really -- a hole had opened up in it. And each day that passes where we don't see evidence of that, that's a good thing. Now, with all that good news, and I think it is good news, there's still an ongoing issue with unit four, and that nuclear waste on site that had lost water.

Now it may be that there's some water in there. A helicopter pass-over seemed to a suggest that there was water in it, contrary to announcements yesterday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But whether there's some water, there's certainly not enough water.

And when you only have a little bit of water and these rods are hot, they're going to boil it off. So this is -- the spent fuel, the nuclear waste at unit four, that continues to be an issue. And they need to get power going. They have a power line to the plant now. That's awesome. And now the question is do all the other little parts in between having electricity and running the pumps, are they going to work? The cables and switches and everything else you need to also function, will they function? And we should know that for some soon.


CROWLEY: If I could ask you, if the spent fuel rods in the fuel pools, as they say, is -- it sounds to me like you think is of greatest concern at this moment. And that has to do with not enough water.

So the electricity will help with the cooling down. But don't they have to keep pouring water in? Electricity would not necessarily cure that problem.

WALSH: Well, it would if they could rig a cooling system, right? It's the same problem -- essentially it's the same problem, more or less, across al the reactor units, which is you need water to cool what's at each reactor.

It's a little different. But, yes, with the spent reactor -- the spent rod, the nuclear waste in unit number four, if they had electricity they would be able to use pumps presumably to pump water into the system, rather than trying to aim a helicopter dousing or a water cannon to try to keep water in the system. Eventually, they're -- they can't continue to rely on simply dropping water from helicopters or water cannons if they're going to resolve the problems in reactor four. They're going to have to come up with some sort of sustainable solution that has water in that spent fuel pond and keeps it there and keeps it circulating. And that's the ultimate victory. But that is going to take -- that might take the longest of all the problems to resolve.

CROWLEY: So a little bit better, but not out of the woods.

Thank you so much, CNN contributor Jim Walsh out of MIT for us. We appreciate it.

Growing fear of a radioactive plume drifting over the U.S. West Coast. People are already taking precautions. But how realistic is that concern?

Also, what does radiation do to the human body short term, long term, at low and high doses? We get the facts from an expert.

And are Japanese officials underplaying the severity of the nuclear crisis? Anderson Cooper is "Keeping Them Honest." He joins us live from Tokyo.


CROWLEY: President Obama is trying to reassure Americans worried about the impact of Japan's nuclear crisis unfolding more than 5,000 miles from the U.S. West Coast.


BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the -- in the Pacific.

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.

And going forward, we will continue to keep the American people fully updated, because I believe that you must know what I know as president.


CROWLEY: Want to bring in Ted Rowlands from Los Angeles.

Ted, those looked like real reassuring words. How were they taken out there?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Candy, the president is talking about it. Experts have been talking about this since Japan broke out and since these reactors had trouble in Japan. And basically the theme here universally has been there's no problem for people living in the United States here on the West Coast. Still, despite the fact that all these experts are saying this and the politicians are saying this, people here are convinced that they are in danger.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): Fears over radiation from Japan somehow making it to the United States has people especially on the West Coast clearing out supplies of potassium iodide, which protects the thyroid from radiation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to find it, and finding it difficult.

ROWLANDS: At Fleming Pharmaceuticals in Fenton, Missouri, they have doubled production, but still can't make enough potassium iodide to keep up with the incredible worldwide demand.

DEBORAH FLEMING, FLEMING PHARMACEUTICALS: We're doing whatever we can to get product to Japan as quickly as possible and to people in the United States that are afraid that they could be impacted as well.

ROWLANDS: According to just about every expert in the world, people in the U.S. are in no danger of radiation poisoning from what's happening in Japan. In fact, consuming potassium iodide isn't a good idea unless you're exposed.

Doesn't matter, says Pepperdine University psychologist Robert deMayo.

ROBERT DEMAYO, PSYCHOLOGIST: People are more likely to trust in their basic sense of fear, their anxiety about this. The people issuing advisories, don't do anything, don't worry about it, many people view as not credible, not believable. And people believe that the cost of not doing anything is greater than the cost of doing something.


ROWLANDS: And, Candy, here in California, state officials just had a conference call with members of the media, urging the media to get the word out that at this point unless something dramatically changes, there is no problem for folks living in California or anywhere on the West Coast in terms of radiation coming from Japan.

CROWLEY: It reminds me a little of the avian bird flu scare, when everyone went out and they ran out of Tamiflu for a little while. And this seems to be along the same lines.

ROWLANDS: Yes. And one thing that one person said to me, well, it's not that expensive. Why not just get it anyway, just in case?

So I think maybe a lot of people aren't generally scared and running to the drugstores, but they're thinking, hey, for a couple bucks, why not put it in my medicine cabinet?

CROWLEY: Exactly.

ROWLANDS: That's a little bit of I think what's going on here.

CROWLEY: I think so, too. Thanks, Ted Rowlands. Appreciate it.

The crews at the scene of Japan's nuclear crisis are being exposed to high levels of radiation. Is it really a potential suicide mission? We have an expert in radiation medicine standing by.

Plus, Anderson Cooper live in Tokyo for us with the latest on the nuclear crisis and keeping Japanese officials honest.


CROWLEY: We expect very shortly you will see a vote here. This is the United Nations, where they are voting on whether to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya. In the past few days, Moammar Gadhafi has certainly overrun some of the rebel-held towns, and the U.N. acting, some people think maybe too late, nonetheless, a very important vote in the U.N., which might trigger some action from allies and other forces over Libya.

Now more than six days after the earthquake and tsunami, the crisis in the disaster zone is getting worse for some survivors along with their grief.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester is following developments for us.

Lisa, what is the latest you're seeing?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, people are running out of food, they're running out of food medical supplies. And on top of all of this, many are still desperately trying to find out what happened to their loved ones.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): In the midst of the sorrow and destruction, a baby boy is born to a doctor and his young wife in Minami Sanriku. The water from the tsunami rose to the fourth floor of the hospital. Two-thirds of the staff and patients are now missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dr. (INAUDIBLE) says this helps ease some of the suffering. The baby has given him hope. He says that no matter what happens, people must keep walking ahead and look forward.

SYLVESTER: But there is still much hardship and pain. Kanichi Sozuki (ph) is a volunteer firefighter. He returns to his house in Kamaishi for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My wife, my son's family and four grandchildren, I lost them all. SYLVESTER: Others look for their loved ones, including this couple. They search for their son who worked at the post office. For the survivors in the hardest-hit areas, new worries: Food is running out. Grocery stores can't restock their shelves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man says that he has nothing to sell anymore. And he apologizes to customers who have come to the store.

In Ofunato, the U.S. Marines land a helicopter, bringing food and other supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Food. Food. Everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is an unexpected flight coming. So I'm really surprised about it. I do appreciate their coming. I almost cried.

SYLVESTER: But here at this evacuation center in Minami Sanriku, they still wait for help -- 80 percent of the evacuees here are over the age of 65. There is only one doctor to care for them. His patients suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My blood pressure shot up, and I forgot my medicine.

SYLVESTER: He is rationing the little bit of medicine that they have, but it's running out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We can't last another three days. They are distributing drugs, but, you know, so far, I haven't gotten any yet.


SYLVESTER: Now, another struggle is just keeping their spirits up. A few students at a high school gym that is now being used as an evacuation center said they were supposed to be having their graduation ceremonies in there this week. But they took some paper and some paint and they made a sign for their fellow evacuees that they hung up on the wall that said: "Don't give up. Be glad that you're alive" -- Candy.

CROWLEY: This is just excruciating. Every day, just the pictures get worse.

SYLVESTER: It's really hard sometimes to just listen to these words and these pictures, because it's heartbreaking, Candy.

CROWLEY: So -- we're on it. Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester. Appreciate it.

Are Japanese officials telling everything they know? CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by, ready to join us live from Tokyo.

And what exactly is the threat posed by radiation from the crippled nuclear plant? We will hear from a medical expert. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: You are looking at goings on in the U.N. right now, a decision and a vote on whether to approve a no-fly zone over Libya, whether to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. It would keep Libya from bringing reinforcements in. And most of all, it would stop Libya from dropping bombs on its own people. They need nine yes-votes in this -- on this occasion.

Some final talking going on. And it could change very dramatically what is going on in Libya right now, which is that Moammar Gadhafi is once again consolidating his power with the use of brute force across several towns.

We're now seeing some very different assessments of Japan's unfolding nuclear crisis from Japanese and U.S. officials, with Americans seeing a much more severe situation.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is in Tokyo "Keeping Them Honest" for us.

Anderson, what do you have when you compare what have been two pretty different assessments of what's going on at those nuclear facilities?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Yes, very different assessments. A very blunt assessment from the United States we have been hearing, saying not only this problem will take weeks, if not months to actually resolve, but what the U.S. said -- what is critical yesterday that the U.S. said was that spend fuel rods in reactor number four, they said there was little to no water, and therefore those spent fuel rods had been completely exposed, spewing radiation up into the air.

If that is in fact the case, which U.S. officials say it is, that they believe it is, based not only on the information they're getting from U.S. authorities, but also from data that they themselves have collected -- and, remember, now, you have U-2 spy planes going overhead. You have special aircraft that can monitor radiation flying overhead as well.

That would be an extremely dangerous situation. Japanese officials however, have said they cannot confirm whether or not or how much water there may be in those pools in reactor number four. Japanese officials have been focused in the last 12, 18 hours very carefully and very systematically on the spent fuel pools for reactor number three.

You have seen -- we saw those helicopter drops yesterday, four helicopter drops attempted, dropping water onto reactor number three into the pools. Only one of them was apparently successful. Those high winds, which are thankfully blowing whatever radiation is released off into the ocean, also makes that difficult to drop water from a helicopter.

You also have high levels of radiation even, you know, 100 feet above the plants that have been measured. So helicopter pilots are pulling back, not getting too close to the plant.

So now they brought in water cannons last night here in order to try to douse it from the ground. The police forces tried to used water cannons which are usually used in riot control to douse water from the ground. They had eight water cannon trucks. They tried to get within 50 yards of reactor number three, of the pools there. They had to pull back because of high radiation levels.

The military came in. They have five specially designed water trucks. They were able to spray water for about an hour. We're told they brought in more trucks this morning, but it's not clear if they have resumed those operations to try to cool down the spent fuel rods in reactor number three.

And also in reactor number three, Candy, you have got to remember, they announced yesterday that they're losing pressure and they think there may be some sort of a rupture in reactor number three -- all of it very worrying.

And the other important statement from the U.S. was, they say they're not getting enough information from Japanese authorities. That's -- that's something which, for the U.S. to come out and say that, obviously that Japanese officials deny that. They say they're trying to give out as much information as possible. But you definitely have conflicting stories here on the ground, Candy.

CROWLEY: Anderson Cooper, seems like it's going to take a while to shake out and see who knows what's actually going on. We appreciate your time from Tokyo tonight. Thanks.

We want to move you now to another breaking story, as we've told you. The U.N. is now getting ready to take a vote on whether to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. We want to go to Arwa Damon right now. She is in Benghazi. Benghazi is one of the last rebel-held towns in Libya, and that's where she is.

Arwa, what can you tell us about what's going on there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Candy, we're actually outside of the courthouse here where a large screen has been set up. The crowds rushing towards it at around midnight local, 6 p.m. in the United States when the vote was expected to take place.

The crowds already cheering in anticipation. We've heard AK-47 gunfire going off. They are shooting trace-arounds into the air. There's fireworks. They're chucking explosives into the water here. People cheering, dancing, all of this because they're really hoping that the international community is finally going to step up and pass that resolution, that it is going to give them exactly what they have been asking for all this time, a no-fly zone.

Plus, they're hoping that there will be some sort of aerial support. They do really want to see aircraft coming in and striking Gadhafi's positions. We've seen an intensified air assault on the part of Gadhafi's forces. There's been heavy artillery bombardment, much of it centering around the city of Asagi (ph), but that is the last standing city before Gadhafi forces would get to Benghazi.

Earlier we heard from Gadhafi on the radio, where he was threatening the people of Benghazi, saying that they need to be careful, that his forces would be...

CROWLEY: Arwa...

DAMON: ... coming for them in the next few hours -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Arwa Damon, thank you so much.

We want to go quickly to our Nic Robertson, also is in Libya, I think in Tripoli. Nic, what have you got for us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, I just took a call from one of Muammar Gadhafi's sons, Saadi al-Gadhafi. And this seems to be true 11th-hour (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- faith we can put in what I'm about to tell you, I don't know. This is what the message is coming from the leadership. This is what Muammar Gadhafi's son just told me his father had said.

He said they're going to change the tactics around Benghazi, that the army is not going to go into Benghazi. It's going to take up positions around this rebel stronghold. But said the reason for that is they expect a humanitarian exodus. They expect people will be afraid of what's going to happen, and he said the army will be there to help them get out.

CROWLEY: I'm going to ask Nic to kind of hold here, because the -- and I'm coming back to you, Nic, but the vote is going on in the U.N. right now. We have Richard Roth there, as well, while this vote takes place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abstentions, abstentions.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're about to see exactly how many countries are abstaining on this vote. It was hard to tell how many voted yes due to the wide angle there.

We see Russia abstaining, China abstaining. Two permanent members who elected not to use their veto. We'll get a run down of others. And here comes the vote total. They need nine to get a yes vote on this resolution. The Chinese ambassador is the current president of the Security Council. He'll read out the totals for the U.N. Security Council, voting to authorize the no-fly zone and other measures to protect civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ten votes in favor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Zero vote against. Five abstentions. CROWLEY: So it seems like there you have it, Richard. Ten votes. That means the no-fly zone is approved. Who now enforces that?

ROTH: That will be the countries who are agreeing to now get together to adopt military measures, to enforce a no-fly ban and also to perhaps strike at Gadhafi's armor and troops. Anything, as this resolution says, all necessary measures to protect the civilian population as Gadhafi's forces move in on Benghazi.

Very unclear. From this point it moves to military capitals, you might say, just like what we saw pre-Gulf War. So a historic vote to authorize in effect a no-fly zone and perhaps more measures against the regime of Colonel Gadhafi, who withstood years of sanctions from the U.N. before. But the situation is a bit more different this time -- Candy.

CROWLEY: You know, Richard, ten yes votes, five abstentions and zero no votes tells you something about where Libya stands in the world view.

ROTH: It does say a lot. I mean, it also says the split once again in the world, despite the Arab League pleading for a no-fly zone, Russia and China, which many times do the bidding -- does the bidding of the Arab world at the U.N. and in other forums, did not give a sense of unanimity from the international community that would send a message to Gadhafi.

Yes, the vote passed, but there are a lot of abstentions which may give encouragement to Colonel Gadhafi and his company and crew and family to see that look if really the U.S. and some of my enemies in the community, plus friends, which Libya's leadership has said took money from Gadhafi, which the French presidency denies strongly. So the vote passes.

And also we saw some post-Iraq fallout here. Very hesitant to back anything involving force in that region. That's why in the resolution it says there will be no foreign occupation.

CROWLEY: Thanks, so much, Richard Roth at the U.N.

I want to go back and bring in our Nic Robertson, who is in Tripoli.

Nic, sorry to interrupt you. You know, we had breaking news. And so let me go back to you, because first of all, your reaction to this being passed at the U.N. We heard Arwa Damon say they were so hoping for this in Benghazi as the rebels just basically down to their last two cities. And then I want you to repeat what you told me about getting a call from Colonel Gadhafi's son.

ROBERTSON: I think there are two ways the government here is going to look at this, Candy. One of them is they didn't want this. They didn't want international interference, and this is going to -- this is going to give them a great deal of concern. But I think we've seen Muammar Gadhafi's historical track record and track record on this issue. He's been making the case all along to the people here that this is all about foreign intervention, all about bringing back the colonial occupation of the country. And any strikes against the country he will use to rally the people against them and to unit the country under his leadership. That's how he will use this.

So we're going to see a polarization of the two sides. But Gadhafi undoubtedly will try to use this to bring more support. From what I heard just before this vote, 11th hour diplomacy, if you will, a message coming directly from Muammar Gadhafi, passed by his son, saying the army won't go to Benghazi. A change of tactics. They'll take up positions outside, and the government will only send in police and counter terrorism forces. The counter terrorism forces and the police, they say, to disarm the rebels.

We've heard Gadhafi on the television and radio this evening, telling the rebels in Benghazi to put down their weapons. If they do, they will not be harmed. If they don't, he says, then that is the end. Those were his words.

So this clearly, by this kind of message coming at such a late moment in the diplomacy at the U.N., this clearly shows how much pressure the leadership here has felt. But there's no doubt about the way they're going to play this in the future. They will -- Gadhafi will use this to unite the country under him as much as he can. And it will polarize the two elements here -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So Nic, as I read you, Gadhafi will use this to say foreign elements are, you know, flying over our country to try to interfere in our affairs, and try to gather popular support that way.

But there is another element here, and that is, is it too late? Did the west and other countries in the Middle East, did they dally around too long for this to make a difference? Because it seems to me the rebels are down to their last couple of towns.

ROBERTSON: When this really could have made a difference was when Gadhafi was on his back feet. That was three weeks ago. That was even before the rebels began to organize an advance through Ashtabaja (ph), Brega, Ras Anuf, all the oil towns, Benjawad, all these towns towards Tripoli.

Gadhafi has found his feet. He's found his military momentum. His strength isn't in the air. What are the other measures that are going to be put in place? The message coming from Gadhafi now seems to be "I'm a humanitarian." Well, clearly, the world knows far better than that. And anyone who's here knows far better than that.

But now he's going to be -- he says he's going to be changing his tactics. What -- what are the other measures? What are there going to be conditions on those other measures? Is he going to try and sneak below some wire, some threshold here? Not use his air force, not use his heavy artillery to do some counterterrorism forces as we're now hearing? So it's not clear to me on that at the moment how it's going to play out. But clearly, he's trying to duck under the wire here right now.

CROWLEY: Nic Robertson, you know, trouble in another spot in the world, a disaster of a different sort on top of the story for us. We appreciate it.

We will have much more on what's going on in Japan right after this break.


CROWLEY: Welcome back. Two major stories going on here. One, a U.N. vote just happened by a vote of ten yes, zero no, and five abstentions. U.N. Security Council has agreed to install a no-fly zone over Libya. But more importantly, in that declaration it said that U.N. forces -- in this case, it will be those who, in fact, voted for this -- that they would take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated towns. Our John King is with us here. John, that to me is the key thing. What next, I guess, is the OK? U.N. says go ahead. Who goes ahead under the auspices of what group?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, now they have the blessing of the United Nations to go ahead. And the administration, as you know, Candy, this has been very interesting. It's turning yet again in the sense that there was so much caution about a no-fly zone. Hesitation that once you start that, you're actually committing yourself to a greater military intervention and possibly even boots on the ground.

So I am told the administration is still adamant, that when it comes to the implementation of the no-fly zone, that the Arab League must participate. Arab nations must participate. They would like them to take the lead.

The question is what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours? There are some saying that Muammar Gadhafi will not have to wait too long before he gets a message that this vote has been taken. Does that mean Cruise missile strikes? Does that mean strikes against his military installations?

Of particular concern to Secretary Gates, who was reluctant to do this and remains reluctant to do this, to begin with, is that if you're going to do this, the first thing you have to do is wipe out their surface-to-air missiles, wipe out their ability to shoot down anybody's pilots, but including United States pilots.

But the indications are, despite some reluctance at the Pentagon, that the United States and some of its NATO allies, Britain and France, have been quite aggressive. They're more muscular, and the Obama administration here will do something in the short term. Defining short term is what we don't have a definitive answer on right now.

CROWLEY: Well, and is there any sense in talking to your sources that this might be a little too late? Because while we've been paying, naturally, so much attention to Japan, Gadhafi has taken back a lot of rebel-held towns to the point where he's down to two, possibly three, but I think he's down to two. And how likely is this to be a message to him that he's going to get without some sort of military action?

KING: There is no question. And you hear it from administration critics. Why did you wait so long? Why did it take so long? You hear it from Nic Robertson or Arwa Damon when they're talking to their sources in the opposition. What has taken the international community so long?

There's no question the circumstances on the ground have changed dramatically. The question remaining is how aggressive and how muscular will the response be after the vote, and does that give the opposition not only time to regroup, but politically and militarily?

And what else happens, and what else could happen that we don't quite see at the beginning? Will there be some covert effort to rearm the opposition? Will there be some effort to help them militarily? Those are questions we can't answer just yet, but that would be critical.

But it has been striking to watch Bill Burns, undersecretary of state, on Capitol Hill today, saying if Gadhafi stays in power, he'll return to terrorism. This from an administration who from the past week has been saying, "Whoa, whoa, go slow here." There has been a shift in the rhetoric. Now we need to see what happens on the ground.

CROWLEY: Thanks a lot. CNN's John King, appreciate the input.

When we come back, we will return to the subject of Japan and the radiation.


CROWLEY: Joining me now in THE SITUATION ROOM, Timothy Jorgenson, who's associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University.

So much attention on these workers who are in that plant, which we know is leaking radiation to one degree or another. It's been called a suicide mission. Is it?

TIMOTHY JORGENSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think, yes it is, because yesterday I heard in the media that the Japanese officials said they may ask these workers to sustain a lethal dose in completing their task. So in that sense it is a suicide mission if they end up doing that.

CROWLEY: And if there is a lethal dose, is it -- do people die immediately from radiation exposure? Or is it -- I mean, we've seen sort of long, slow horrible deaths. But what is the process?

JORGENSON: No, it takes -- it takes days, weeks, possibly months to die from radiation. So the first, depending upon the dose, is how soon you'll see symptoms. But it's quite possible that workers could continue -- could continue to work for a week or two more, even though they sustained a lethal dose of radiation. CROWLEY: But they're protected. We've see -- we saw earlier the suits and the hazmat suits and the masks. Is it possible that they could come out without radiation exposure damage?

JORGENSON: The workers are continually monitored for radiation. They -- as you've seen, they carry these dosimeters. They know what the radiation doses are all the time. When they move into a high area, these dosimeters go off to tell them they're in a high area. There's only a total -- certain total accumulative dose that they can withstain [SIC] -- sustain.

CROWLEY: Even with all the equipment?

JORGENSON: Those -- that equipment is mostly to stop them from breathing particulate radiation. It's not going to shield them from gamma rays or neutrons or other things that are in the environment. So there's only a limited amount of personal protection that they can wear. They really have to limit their time in a certain area. That's how -- that's how they get protected.

CROWLEY: And finally, got about 20 seconds here. The radiation exposure possibilities for someone say, in Tokyo, is there a danger there? From what we see so far?

JORGENSON: I mean, a worst-case scenario is that there would be a large emission of radiation and that the wind's conditions would be just right to blow that towards Tokyo. God forbid that would happen. Prevailing winds tend to be out over the ocean. So the odds are pretty good that it's not going to go to Tokyo, OK, but it's an unclear situation.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Timothy Jorgenson. We have to watch and sort of see what happens with those winds and everything else. We appreciate it.

JORGENSON: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: A testament to the power of a tsunami. We go to one of Japan's devastated ports.


CROWLEY: Even before the full measure of death and devastation is known, it is clear that Japan will face an extraordinarily difficult recovery process. CNN's Gary Tuchman takes us to a key sea port pounded by the tsunami.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The snow is coming down again in this northeastern port city of Hachino (ph) in Japan, one of the most important port cities in the country. And look what the tsunami did.

This huge fishing vessel, about 40 meters long, 130 feet. It weighs 180,000 kilos, 400,000 pounds just tossed like a toy on its side. The harbor of the port, right over here, the Pacific Ocean, farther in that direction. This is one of six ships, maybe more, the six ships that we see tossed out from the tsunami. Here's another one just tossed out a little bit out of the harbor. That gives you an idea of the power of the tsunami.

More problematic, though, for this port is that there are an unknown number of ships that have sunk. And because the ships are under the water in the harbor, they've had to close this entire port.

There's a large fish market here. Not only is this an important port city. It is apparently the No. 1 destination for fish that comes into Japan.

So the economy is suffering here. This area is suffering with deaths, with people missing. Thousands of people still in shelters. A very difficult and trying time for people of northeastern Japan.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Japan


CROWLEY: Next up, a look at the men working inside that stricken nuclear power plant.


CROWLEY: The eyes of the world are on Japan's stricken nuclear power plant. CNN's Jeanne Moos has her thoughts on the workers inside.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the natural instinct is to get out, they're the ones holding the fort.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": They're being dubbed the Fukushima 50.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Fukushima 50.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: We're calling them the Fukushima 50.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're now being called the Faceless 50.

MOOS: They may be faceless, but what they're facing has folks comparing them to 9/11 responders. Going up when everyone else was trying to get down.

While experts argue about how dangerous this accident is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are shouting and not listening.

MOOS: ... we bet neither expert would want to trade places with the Fukushima 50.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about workers coming into the reactor, perhaps as a suicide mission.

MOOS: They're being celebrated on Twitter as modern kamikazes, with a camaraderie similar to that of soldiers in combat. Only a select few get to be heroes to the world, not to mention a round of applause on an American talk show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are heroes. We've got to pray for them.

MOOS: Some are speculating if disaster is averted there will be an amazing movie made about the 50 workers. We're imagining something along the lines of "Silkwood."


MOOS: And whether it's a nuclear plant in Oklahoma or Japan, there are those scary radiation readings we don't really understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-five thousand DPM.

STREEP: Jesus, I'm internally contaminated, then.

MOOS (on camera): Most of us get up close and personal with a nuclear plant while planted safely on our couches.

(voice-over) Viewing images shot from satellites hundreds of miles up, we can only imagine the picture painted by "The New York Times" of the Fukushima 50: "They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness, pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions."

(on camera) The Fukushima 50 has a nice ring to it. The actual number fluctuates as workers are rotated in from a larger pool.

(voice-over) Some are calling them the Chilean miners of 2011. Someone else tweeted that the workers are akin to Spock at the end of "Star Trek II" when a dying Spock speaks of sacrificing for the needs of the many.

LEONARD NIMOY, ACTOR: The needs of the many outweigh...

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: The needs of the few.

NIMOY: Or the one.

MOOS: A concept that's very Japanese. These workers who have the whole world rooting for them do as Spock says.

NIMOY: Live long and prosper.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CROWLEY: I'm candy Crowley in THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf Blitzer will be back tomorrow. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.