Japan asks for US help in nuclear crisis
Friday, March 18, 2022 3:05 AM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By ERIC TALMADGE and MARI YAMAGUCHI

YAMAGATA, Japan - Japan reached out Friday to the U.S. for help in reining in the crisis at its dangerously overheated nuclear complex, while the U.N. atomic energy chief called the disaster a race against the clock that demands global cooperation.

At the stricken complex, military fire trucks began spraying the troubled reactor units again Friday morning, with tons of water arcing over the facility in desperate attempts to douse the units and prevent meltdowns that could spew dangerous levels of radiation.

"The whole world, not just Japan, is depending on them," Tokyo office worker Norie Igarashi, 44, said of the emergency teams at the plants.

Last week's 9.0 quake and tsunami in Japan's northeast set off the nuclear problems by knocking out power to cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on the northeast coast. Since then, four of the troubled plant's six reactor units have seen fires, explosions or partial meltdowns.

The unfolding crises have led to power shortages in Japan, forced factories to close, sent shockwaves through global manufacturing and triggered a plunge in Japanese stock prices.

"We see it as an extremely serious accident," Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters Friday just after arriving in Tokyo. "This is not something that just Japan should deal with, and people of the entire world should cooperate with Japan and the people in the disaster areas."

"I think they are racing against the clock," he said of the efforts to cool the complex.

One week after the quake and tsunami - which left more than 6,500 dead and over 10,300 missing - emergency crews are facing two challenges in the nuclear crisis: cooling the reactors where energy is generated, and cooling the adjacent spent fuel pools where used nuclear fuel rods are stored in water.

Both need water to keep their uranium cool and stop them from emitting radiation, but with radiation levels inside the complex already limiting where workers can go and how long they can remain, it's been difficult to get enough water inside.

Water in at least one fuel pool - in the complex's Unit 3 - is believed to be dangerously low, exposing the stored fuel rods. Without enough water, the rods may heat further and spew out radiation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Friday that Tokyo is asking the U.S. government for help and that the two are discussing the specifics.

"We are coordinating with the U.S. government as to what the U.S. can provide and what people really need," Edano said.

A defense ministry officials said that a U.S. military fire truck was standing by to help supply water to the crippled reactor units, though the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the vehicle would be driven by Japanese workers.

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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Elaine Kurtenbach, Shino Yuasa, Jeff Donn and Tim Sullivan in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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