Emergency Cooling Continues in Japan
Japanese authorities are ramping up attempts to cool overheating fuel at the beleaguered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. In an effort to avert a nuclear meltdown, military helicopters dumped tons of seawater aimed at cooling ponds (BBC) situated above the reactors, which store fuel rods. According to experts (LAT), the ponds are critically short of water, and may be dry--increasing the chance of radioactive release. Tokyo Electric Power, the plant's operator, said the water dump failed to decrease radiation levels at the facility, and added that cooling down the number three reactor (CNN) was their top concern. Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa stressed the situation's urgency, saying the decision to address the crisis from the air and ground was made despite concerns about exposing workers to high levels of radiation.
The nuclear drama continues as the official death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami (FT) climbed to 5,178 with more than nine thousand still missing. Millions of people have lost power and at least 344,000 are being housed in emergency shelters. In response to the nuclear disaster, China placed a moratorium on approval for new nuclear projects. China (SkyNews) is building around twenty-eight nuclear plants, roughly 40 percent of the global nuclear projects under construction. The U.S. State Department advised all U.S. citizens to consider leaving Japan (Politico), saying it will help evacuate private citizens who want to leave but have been unable to do so commercially.
Despite turbulence in financial markets, Japan's multiple disasters will likely not have a major global economic impact, and reconstruction will provide a boost to the Japanese economy in the long term, says CFR's Sebastian Mallaby.
An extraordinary series of events caused Japan's nuclear crisis, but it appears backup safety systems were flawed, says nuclear expert Charles Ferguson. He expects the disaster to slow some nuclear projects elsewhere but not cause a wholesale stoppage.
This article from the Economist discusses Japan's catastrophes and ponders whether the country will be able to endure the three-pronged disaster.
This interactive Nuclear Energy Guide from CFR explores the past, present, and future of nuclear power, focusing on its unique benefits and risks.
In this CFR Media Conference Call, Sheila Smith and Michael Levi discuss Japan's earthquake and its political, economic, and energy implications.