The Japanese attempt to cool the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant entered a new stage on Thursday morning, as military helicopters dumped sea water on two reactors, hoping to control the temperatures and avoid the release of radioactive steam. But the U.S. government remained pessimistic, and offered to assist any American citizen looking to leave Japan.
- The U.S. State Department has advised its citizens to consider leaving the country, and will charter flights to "nearby airports in the region" as necessary. The voluntary evacuation is the "'lowest step' in the hierarchy of preventative steps that the State Department can take," but it reflects increasing pessimism about the ongoing crisis at Fukushima in the U.S. government. [Politico]
- The latest attempt to cool down the dangerously hot fuel rods in Reactors No. 3 and 4 involves Japanese military helicopters, working in 40-minute shifts, dumping sea water on the reactors, with police officers using fire hoses when possible. Early results weren't promising—radiation levels taken 20 minutes after the first dunk "remained unchanged"—but officials said the pool in Reactor No. 4 still had water, which is positive news. [Guardian; Boing Boing]
- Despite forbidding military personnel from going closer than 50 miles to the plant, the U.S. military is contributing an unmanned spy plane, which will take pictures of the No. 4 reactor, as well as firetrucks and water pumps. South Korea is likely to give Japan several tons of boric acid. [Reuters; Kyodo; Chosunilbo]
- If you don't already feel sick to your stomach with sadness and fear, this article from The Guardian about the problems evacuees and refugees face in the below-freezing winter weather should do the trick. [Guardian]