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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Security Council Approves No-Fly Zone in Libya; Desperate Efforts in Japan
Aired March 17, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Tokyo, Japan.
Breaking news tonight on two fronts: In Libya, the question of the hour, could the United States, Europe, and other parts of the Arab world about to be going to war against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi? That's the question because of a U.N. Security Council vote, a vote which would -- frankly, clears the way not just for a no-fly zone, not just airstrikes, but all -- quote -- "necessary measures" to protect civilians from Gadhafi.
We also have major new developments in the nuclear crisis to our north here in Japan, including this, our first up-close look at the damaged reactor buildings, the destruction simply incredible. The question is, what is going on inside the wreckage, especially, especially with the spent fuel that is not inside inner containment vessels?
Workers scrambling to cool the damaged reactors, struggling for the last 24 hours with that, and with that today, an emergency diesel generator now supplying power to units five and six, a small bit of good news.
TEPCO also, which is TEPCO, the company which runs this nuclear plant, also reporting that contrary to what the International Atomic Energy Agency said about a power line to run cooling pumps, it turns out it has not yet been hooked up. The IAEA had said it had been hooked up. TEPCO saying, no, that hasn't happened.
Water dumps on reactor three, including the spent fuel pool, only somewhat effective according to the power company TEPCO.
Meantime, with Americans starting to worry about radioactive contamination reaching the West Coast, President Obama tried to reassure the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He also said that Americans living in Japan should closely monitor the situation.
Of course, the U.S. government yesterday had told -- any Americans within 50 miles of the nuclear plant should get out of that area. Now they are offering voluntary evacuations to the families of U.S. military and government personnel living here in Japan.
The U.S. also now has a especially designed plane to monitor radiation levels. They brought that into the region, that to try to independently at least get some raw data on what is going on exactly inside these plants, because the information they have been getting from the Japanese government is not as clear and concise and as accurate as they would like.
Now the other breaking story, Libya, North Africa, dramatic developments, with the U.N. Security Council now approving a resolution, that authorizing, as I said, not just a no-fly zone, but any and all measures to protect civilians against the regime of Colonel Gadhafi.
This has been something that authorities have wanted as we look at some of the pictures from Libya of Gadhafi forces which have amassed outside of Benghazi. Opponents of the regime of Gadhafi have called for a no-fly zone, although, for many weeks now, although those calls have gone from just a no-fly zone to perhaps what they call a no-drive zone or hitting with cruise missiles Libyan government installations.
It is not clear at this point what the United States plans to do. We will look at that in the hour ahead.
But, first, let's go to CNN's -- CNN contributor Jim Walsh, who is also from MIT. Also joining us is CNN's Tom Foreman, and Michael Friedlander, a former nuclear plant operator. He joins us as well.
Jim, in terms of the latest developments that you're watching on the ground here in Japan, what gives you hope; what gives you pause?
JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, this is the first day out of seven days where the news wasn't worse than the day before.
And since I am desperately searching for good news, I consider that a victory. Every day when I woke up, there was a hydrogen explosion or a fire or problems had spread to another plant. And, today, that did not happen and there was actually some good news. That doesn't mean it's all wine and roses.
But at reactor number one and reactor number two, it seems like things might be stabilizing and they might get power going at reactor number two -- at least that's the hope. And at reactors five and six, that seems to have stabilized. So even if you're just narrowing the range of problems, allowing the workers to try to focus on the core problems and let the others just simply be managed, that would be welcome news and a victory.
Now, of course, this could all be reversed tomorrow. We could wake up, there could be another hydrogen explosion, radiation levels could have spiked, so on and so forth. So I'm not saying we're out of the woods. But each day that passes that we don't have a new dramatic development that is worse buys time, allows those reactor units one, two and three to get a little cooler and allows the team on the ground, which must be dog-tired at this point, to try to come up with some sort of plan to deal with what seem to be the toughest problems, which is that nuclear waste and the spent fuel rods in reactors three and four.
Michael Friedlander, that does seem to be the biggest priority for Japanese authorities, especially the spent fuel rods in reactor -- in the pool in reactor number three. That's where they have been focusing their efforts, not just by helicopter, which didn't seem very successful. They have been bringing in fire trucks, water cannons that are usually used to control riots in order to actually just pour water.
Now we have gotten word they're going to bring in some other kind of fire trucks that are used to battle high-rise fires to see if they can maybe have more success. They say they haven't been able to really get a sense of what kind of success pouring the water from the ground from these trucks has been, and it's been limited, because of radiation.
What is your greatest concern right now; where do you think the greatest effort needs to be?
MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, FORMER NUCLEAR PLANT OPERATOR: Well, as the previous contributor mentioned, it does appear as though the reactors themselves are in certainly a precarious, but at least a for the time being stable condition.
The absolute priority at this point is making sure that spent fuel pools stay filled with water. Believe it or not, it's actually sort of a double-edged sword. That white spoke that you see rising from the spent fuel rods pools is probably most likely steam rising, which is a sign that indeed there is water in the spent fuel pools.
I would only get worried as soon as I saw that steam stop rising, because that would be an indication that in fact the spent fuel rods pools have reached a dry-out condition.
COOPER: But, Michael, we don't know -- with reactor number -- with the pool, the spent fuel pool in reactor number four, yesterday the U.S. government had said there's little to no water in there. Today Japanese authorities said they believe there is some water this there, although they can't say how much. Do we frankly know whether or not there's water in there? FRIEDLANDER: No. The bottom line is, is, until somebody stands on the deck and puts eyes in the pool, there's absolutely no way to be able to tell.
COOPER: And the reason it's so important to know whether or not there's water, because if there is no water or very little water in that pool, then you're talking about fuel rods which are potentially exposed and bleeding radiation into the air.
I want to bring in Tom Foreman.
Tom, you have been looking at the best-case scenarios and the worst-case scenarios. What are they?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson.
Best-case scenario, let's look at this. Best-case scenario, what happens here is the situation stabilizes, as both Jim and Michael mentioned, the reactors gradually cool, the radiation is contained, and a long cleanup begins, and it will be a long time until this is all cleaned up.
Let's talk about how that would happen, though, the keys to that. The key to that is that this plan they started today stabilizes more, you bring in helicopters, you dump water, you get some trucks in here, you're able to spray some water, and in this process, you bring these under control one at a time. If you have power systems that can be worked in numbers one and two to get the water circulating, great. If you can get that in five and six, great.
If you can cool down number three like they think they sort of did today, that's great. And then you can address number four. Those are the keys to the best-case scenario. But let's talk a little bit now about the worst-case scenario, because that's still out there, Anderson, as you well know.
The worst-case scenario, high radiation floods the entire zone, the reactors go into full meltdown because people cannot work there, the radiation spreads to the air, food, and ground water, a large area is just left uninhabitable. That's the nightmare scenario in all of this.
How does that happen? What's the key to that? Well, Anderson, you hinted at it just a moment ago there and I want to look at it right now. This is video. NHK has been showing that same video at the top and pointing to one moment in it that they have been pointed to by officials.
Watch this as we fly by. You're seeing number four and for a moment, as this flies by, you see a tiny glint there. I'm going to play it again, because you can't see it unless you watch very, very closely. It comes by, and I'm going to stop it when it comes up again, right there. It's hard to believe that this is what we're talking about. But this little glint right here officials are saying is there evidence that there is water in that pool holding those rods. So the best-case scenario is betting on time. The worst-case scenario is betting that the government is wrong and that that's not water. And if that's the case and that is not water in that piece of video, then you start talking about the thing we have been talking about for a couple of days here, which is that you have got exposed rods, it will further drive the workers back, and today the progress that Jim started talking about will turn out to be a fluke and we end up with a worse case tomorrow.
So, those are the best and worst right now, Anderson, and frankly, under these circumstances and the information we have, I think it's the best we can do.
COOPER: Yes. There's so many kind of moving parts to this, it can get very confusing and kind of hard to wrap your mind around it. So there's the drama with the spent fuel rods in the pools in reactors three and reactors four, which is what Tom was just talking about, the question of whether or not there's water in that reactor number four, a crucial question indeed.
There's also now an effort to bring electricity, a power line to restore electricity to these reactors. There was a report put out by the IAEA earlier saying that they had connected power to reactor two. TEPCO, the company which is actually running these reactors, came out and said that: You know what, that's actually not true. We had wanted to try to do that yesterday, Thursday. We're hoping to do that today, but it's not yet happened.
Jim Walsh, the importance of -- if they were able to restore it, get a power line in there, restore power to number two, would they then be able to -- how quickly would they then be able to restore power to the other reactors? Do we even know?
WALSH: Yes. Well, three points on that, Anderson. These are all the right questions.
First of all, on the IAEA/Japanese discrepancy, that's really curious, because I'm almost positive that the IAEA is getting its information directly from the Japanese government. That's how the IAEA gets its information. The government -- Japan is a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency and they would be reporting to Vienna.
So that might mean that there's some discrepancy within -- between the Japanese officials and the utility. So that's something to keep an eye out on. As far as trying to get that power line in, yes, that's good news. It's necessary, but it's not sufficient, because once you have the electricity generator going, then you have to hope that all the cables and the switches all the way up to the point where there are cooling pumps or pumps that are pumping water, that each part of that train also works.
And it would not be surprising if they have to -- if they encounter new problems, which hopefully would be small problems that they're going to have to address. But you're not going anywhere unless you get some electricity going. So this is the first, most important step. And then the third thing I would say is how do we know which way we're going?
I think Tom laid this out right, the two possibilities here. And the key one that trips the bad scenario are high levels of radiation that force the workers back, like happened when you and I were talking the other night with Sanjay and suddenly they withdraw all the workers.
Well, when are they going to do that? They're going to do that if there's a big radiation spike. So the thing to watch for over the next 24, 48 hours is the level of radiation. Is it increasing, is it decreasing or is it remaining the same?
COOPER: And, Michael, in terms of -- and that's also critical, because last night they had attempted to use these water cannons, which are basically used against rioters.
The police had tried to use those, five of them to douse water on these things. We're told they could not get within 50 yards. They had to pull back. The military moved in with other trucks designed to pour water on. They were able to pour, according to Japanese officials, about an hour's worth.
But then they had to pull back. We don't know the effect of it. Very briefly, Michael, is the information flow still inadequate from TEPCO and from Japanese officials?
FRIEDLANDER: Yes. At the end of the day, the international community is reliant upon the people who are in the field reporting and that that information is actually flowing up in a very accurate situation.
Again, it's a very fluid situation. The details are changing on an hour-to-hour basis and certainly people are trying their best to get information out. But clearly the quality of information, the consistency of it, and who is the official spokesperson is a bit troubling.
COOPER: Yes, and who really is in charge, I mean, that seems to be the question. It does seem like TEPCO is in immediate charge -- again, trying to get more answers to all these questions, transparency a key issue here, something we have not been seeing from the Japanese government or from TEPCO on this. Though they have had press conferences, they're often vague and the information confusing and often contradictory.
We're going to have more on the emergency in Japan.
When we come back, though, I also -- I want to get you up to date on the breaking news, the U.N. Security Council vote. The reaction in Benghazi, we can show you right now, jubilation, people very, very excited. Benghazi, this was the next, the final giant battle ,it was going to be, by Gadhafi. Will there still be an assault on Benghazi or does this completely change the situation on the ground? All our reporters weigh in, coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: That is the reaction among opponents to Gadhafi in Benghazi, a city that they have held now for several weeks. Gadhafi's forces are about 100 miles west-southwest of Benghazi. They had amassed a large number of forces, which our Nic Robertson saw firsthand. But now the U.N. Security Council has voted, and that is what -- the reaction you are seeing in Benghazi, jubilation over what the U.N. Security Council voted.
Here's what they decided, and I want to show you the Security Council as they made this decision. The Security Council tonight passed a resolution on the no-fly zone. The resolution also says that U.N. member states can take -- and I quote -- "all necessary measures to protect civilians."
Now, it's not clear yet how any international military operation will be operated; it's not clear if it will just be a no-fly zone or if it will be airstrikes on Gadhafi military targets or cruise missile strikes. It's not clear if it will be just the U.S. or whether Europe will be involved, which seems likely, and/or the involvement of Arab states.
The vote was 10 yes, zero no, five abstentions. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice says the resolution should send a strong message to Gadhafi: The violence has to stop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy. There is no justification for his continued leadership now that he's perpetrated violence against his own people.
We have had the opportunity, as you acknowledged, to meet with the opposition and we are actively looking at what options might follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, let's talk about what options may follow and what this means for the situation on the ground.
We're joined by former NATO Allied Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, also Arwa Damon, who is with opposition forces in the city of Benghazi, and our own Nic Robertson, who is in Tripoli.
First of all, Arwa, we saw the reaction there in Benghazi. This is exactly, clearly what they had been calling for, desperately calling for increasingly loudly over the last several weeks. What does this mean now on the ground in Benghazi? They had been preparing for a full-on assault by Gadhafi forces. Are they still doing that?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, they most definitely still are, realizing that they are up against a man who is greatly unpredictable, a man whom, as they say, has not hesitated to massacre his own people, a man who just a few hours before that U.N. resolution had passed had threatened specifically the people of Benghazi, saying that he would show no mercy, saying that he would hunt them down house to house.
So they're very aware of what he's capable of. But besides all of that, they're also extremely relieved, because up until the moment that that U.N. resolution passed, Anderson, this was a group of people who felt as if the international community had abandoned them, had betrayed them, that a massacre at the hands of Gadhafi's forces was imminent.
And, all of a sudden, when that resolution passed, everything for them has changed. Their hope, the relief, the exuberation that we saw there was remarkable. And even if this has come too late, even if it has taken this much time, people are telling us that at least right now, no matter what happens, they know that they're not alone anymore.
COOPER: Nic Robertson, you have been traveling with Gadhafi forces; you have been out in the field seeing their military. Is a no-fly zone enough in terms of stopping their military advantage and stopping their onward advance toward Benghazi?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the language we have seen in the resolution that says there should be, A., an immediate cease-fire, and, B., that international intervention can take place if civilians are threatened really does put a threat against Gadhafi's army as we saw it lined up outside of Ajdabiya where it is still is trying to get to Benghazi.
You have got tanks, heavy anti-aircraft batteries. You have got Katyusha rockets, radar-controlled missile systems on the ground there. If they were to open fire on Ajdabiya or even Benghazi now, then by the terms of the resolution, that would mean they could be targeted.
So I think, on the ground, potentially, if enforced strictly as it says in the resolution, that could be a game-changer on the ground for Gadhafi's forces, Anderson.
COOPER: General Clark, in terms of military options, what are they?
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, the first thing you do is, as Nic said, you call for a cease-fire, immediate cease-fire in place. When Gadhafi doesn't agree with that, you put the aircraft overhead. When the first radars light up your aircraft, you take out the radars. You go after the integrated system. You take down the command-and-control.
When that doesn't stop the onward movement, then at this point of course whoever is doing the no-fly zone, whether it's NATO -- or some people say it couldn't be NATO -- or a coalition of the willing, with strong leadership from the Arab League and U.S./NATO aircraft behind it, whoever is running this can't afford to fail at this point.
The U.N. resolution is clear: Protect civilians. So at that point, you have got to scale up your military action and take out the force on the ground, the ships at sea, whatever is threatening. And of course, Gadhafi has played the dumbest possible hand by his irrational comments and tweaking the international community, more or less daring them to take action.
The international community is very capable of taking action and as Secretary of State Clinton said today, we're going to have to deal with Gadhafi one way or the other. He's just gone too far. He's out of control. And no matter what happens, he's over.
COOPER: General Clark, you talked about putting military -- putting aircraft over Libya. What about the possibility of using cruise missiles initially to try to take out some -- whether it's troops or radar stations or surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft batteries?
CLARK: You can also use drones, you can use cruise missiles. The cruise missiles that we typically use are for use against fixed targets. They have to be targeted. It takes some time. Maybe you would initially open up with that kind of a strike.
But my guess is, you would go in with minimal force initially, you would try to get Gadhafi to back down, because the best outcome, immediate outcome is that there's a cease-fire in place, and nobody else is hurt. Then you put the diplomats in on the ground and you lever Gadhafi out of position and out of power.
If he rejects that, then you have got to use force. And no matter how good we are and no matter how overextended the Libyans are, when you use force, it's messy and innocent people get hurt.
COOPER: How quickly -- what kind of a timeline do you anticipate? We understand that President Obama has already spoken to the French president and also to the leader of Britain about further action.
Obviously, we have heard very strong statements from France's president over the last several days. What kind of a timeline are you looking at, General Clark?
CLARK: Well, of course, I'm not inside the military operation at this point. And if I were, I couldn't disclose it.
But what -- I think you have got two choices. One is, you can put the aircraft up immediately, let Gadhafi challenge them and then take down his system. You might do that tomorrow. Or you give it at least the early hours tomorrow to work the communications there, try to persuade Gadhafi not to move forces, freeze in place, do nothing, in which case you keep the threat of the airstrikes over his head, and you use that as leverage for diplomacy.
I think the -- whoever is leading the operation has to sift through those options now and make those decisions right now.
COOPER: Nic, from what you have seen of Gadhafi's military up close, how organized and effective a fighting force is it?
ROBERTSON: I think this is a relatively sophisticated fighting force; it's got relatively sophisticated weaponry. It lines up its military hardware and operations in the battlefield pretty much as you would expect from a sophisticated military.
You have -- as we saw yesterday driving up towards the front lines there, you have a couple of miles of ammunition trucks ready to resupply. Then you have a break in the resupply line. Then you have about a half-a-mile of fuel trucks lined up there, then another break. Then you have the trucks for water for the troops and then further on you have the food for the troops as well as all the armaments arrayed through the battlefield.
So I think this is a fairly professionally equipped army. Does it operate fully under the command-and-control you get in a Western army? I didn't get that sense, the sort of ill-disciplined, shooting in the air of even heavy weapons. And it's a partly -- this force is a volunteer force.
Interestingly, when I asked the foreign minister this evening, the deputy foreign minister, if the government would adhere to that cease-fire, he said, well, that's going to take time to negotiate. We don't know who we're going to negotiate it with, who the interlocutors are.
So you got this real sense from him that the government is trying to play for a little bit of time here. It may want to still continue some of this battle in the field. That seemed to be the implication, this type of language, Anderson.
COOPER: Arwa, in terms of the opposition forces, clearly, we have seen how kind of disorganized they have been. They made early advances, but were beaten back. We see them firing in the air constantly. They're not digging trenches out in the field. It's obviously a military; it's not even a military; it's just opposition forces, people who are civilians who have now taken up arms.
How possible is it for them to make the most of this and advance effectively?
DAMON: You know, Anderson, at this point, it would be very difficult for the opposition to actually try to advance on Gadhafi's troops because of everything that you pointed out.
They do not have the military expertise, they do not have the military weapons to be able to take on the full force of Gadhafi's military, which is what he has thrown at them right now. The best that they can do in this scenario while we are perhaps waiting for this no-fly zone to be implemented, for other measures to be taken is to hold the ground that they actually have.
And that is, of course, assuming that Gadhafi does not decide overnight or in the early hours of the morning launch some sort of revenge-intent air and artillery bombardment, perhaps not just targeting Ajdabiya. Of course the concern is that he is then going to move on and target Benghazi.
Prior to this U.N. resolution taking place, the opposition had said that they were going to try to mass together, try to go down to Ajdabiya, at least try to keep Gadhafi's forces from moving on to Benghazi.
But the reality at the end of the day is that without these no- fly zones they implemented, without some sort of outside force bringing in its air capabilities, the opposition at best can perhaps hold on to the ground that it has. But advance on Gadhafi's forces? It is not going to happen.
General Clark, very briefly, do you worry that this escalates beyond what some in America who support it think is possible? Does this -- is this a slippery slope that, suddenly, we can't take Gadhafi out by the air, these forces on the ground can't really make advancements, and then suddenly you find yourselves much more deeply involved than the U.S. had anticipated?
CLARK: I think that's absolutely -- absolutely what would happen if we're not successful in stopping it right here.
And so, to go back to what Nic said, you cannot allow Gadhafi's people to stall for two days while he continues his offensive. This has to be -- have to draw a line, have to stop this very quickly. Otherwise, it will drag on.
And once you engage in an operation like this, whether you're the United Nations or a coalition of the willing, you can't fail against a state like Libya led by Gadhafi. You have to succeed. So, yes, it's the start of a slippery slope. So, when we go in, we have to know what the objective is and use decisive force as early as possible.
COOPER: Moving fast. Events are moving fast on the ground on multiple fronts.
John [SIC] Clark, appreciate it.
Nic Robertson, stay safe.
Arwa Damon, stay safe in the days ahead.
We continue to follow the developing nuclear situation here in Japan. We are learning more about the -- the workers who are trying to cool down these spent fuel rods. In some cases they have already sacrificed their lives. Many more likely to sacrifice their future health. We'll talk about what we know about them.
Also, the latest on efforts to get aid to those who are still living, to those who survived the tsunami. Nearly half a million people homeless right now in northeastern Japan.
As I said, a lot of developing stories we're following. Our coverage continues in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My wife, my son's family and four grandchildren, I lost them all. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Lost in an instant. There is so much loss in northeastern Japan from the earthquake and more from the tsunami that occurred just about 30 minutes after it. In fact, we've just learned today Japanese police officials say THAT they now believe the total number of dead and missing right now is more than 16,000. So those numbers have been increasing.
According to the IAEA, at that nuclear plant, the Fukushima Daiichi -- Daiichi plant, according to them, 19 people were injured and two are still missing at the plant. At least 20 have fallen ill from possible nuclear contamination. Others are still on the job, exposing themselves to dangerous, potentially life-threatening amounts of radiation.
There's a plant worker blog quoted in Singapore's "Streets Times (ph)," and this is a quote from it. "People have been blaming TEPCO, this writer said, but the staff at TEPCO" -- TEPCO is the company, the private company that runs the nuclear power plant -- "the staff at TEPCO have refused to flee and continued to work, even at their own -- even at the peril of their own lives. Please stop attacking us. In the midst of the tsunami alarm at 3 a.m. at night when we couldn't even see where we were going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea with the realization this could be certain death. There are people working to protect all of you, even in exchange for their own lives."
And this on Twitter from a worker's daughter: "My dad went to the nuclear plant. They say that the people who evacuated out of the plant got called back in again. I've never seen my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect everybody. Everybody, please really live on. Don't let the feelings of the people at the plant go to waste. Please Dad, come back alive."
I want to bring in our own 360 M.D., Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We're also joined by CNN's Anna Coren, who's been covering this from the early days of this disaster, and also Jim Walsh with MIT, who's also a CNN contributor.
Anna, when you hear the stories of these workers, the conditions they are going through, they are being heralded, and rightfully so, as heroes here in Japan. And those people who've been criticizing TEPCO haven't been criticizing the workers, who are literally sacrificing their lives.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are making the ultimate sacrifice, aren't they? I mean, these people are in these conditions that they know are dangerous. You know, that they're exposed to high levels of radiation.
COOPER: There's no electricity, completely dark at night.
COREN: No. Exactly, exactly. And as you say, the IAEA, which is the U.N. nuclear watch dog there, they're saying that two people are missing, dozens are injured, and at least 28 have been exposed to high levels of radiation.
COOPER: And originally, Sanjay, there were some -- there were more than 800 workers. They -- on Tuesday, they brought out 750 of them. There was a core group of 50...
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
COOPER: ... who at great danger were continuing to work. Now the last figure I heard was 180 that they were recycling through. One can only imagine. I mean, in terms of their future health, they know in some cases they're going to die.
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, they certainly know the deal here, specifically, in terms of the radiation. They're looking at levels, presumably, also trying to figure out what that means for them.
You know, one of the things -- can you hold that for a second? -- one of the things is they try and protect themselves as much as possible, even with masks like this, for example. We showed suits, for example, as well, that they wear.
But they don't do that much in terms of the most dangerous forms of radiation, these gamma rays that we've been talking about. These are devices which they're probably carrying around. This one, for example, measures sort of the background gamma radiation, dangerous ones, and if there's certain, they will sweep an area to see how much gamma radiation is coming off of that.
Just remember, there's all types of radiation. But, you know, that's just giving them the information, to your point, Anderson. There's not a lot you can do to shield yourself from some of these most dangerous forms.
COOPER: Right. They say -- Jim, they say that they've been kind of rotating people through, and that they'll be exposed for a certain amount of time and then maybe they'll go into a more heavily-fortified room to kind of retreat from some of the radiation. But I mean, that's ultimately, you know, over sustained amounts of time, they are -- they are sacrificing their health, their lives.
JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. There's a cumulative level of exposure, but there's something we haven't talked about, and it's not just the physical. It's not the hard work, the lack of sleep, the hard labor that they're doing. There's a mental stress here. You're facing -- you know that you're facing the prospect of death. You're worried about your family, and you're worried about what's happening to you.
And on the battlefield, we've learned, and Sanjay can certainly speak to this, in the last several wars about the importance of psychological injury, posttraumatic stress. And I think these workers are facing not only physical challenges, but mental health challenges in the days and years ahead. The tremendous stress, mental stress they've been put under.
And I would go beyond that and say that entire community, you know, we talk about radiation rates and what you've been exposed to and 50-mile evacuation. It doesn't matter if you've been evacuated 50 miles. If you're a mother who's expecting a child or you're a young child or you're someone with a preexisting mental health condition, maybe you suffer from depression or other challenges, and this happens, you have a tsunami, you have an earthquake, and then also nuclear, which resonates strongly in Japanese history, this puts a tremendous amount of psychological pressure on vulnerable populations, and the workers certainly are at the front of that line.
GUPTA: And Jim, this is Sanjay here. With regard to the psychological impact on the workers, I mean, do they have some sense at all when this might end? I mean, does this water just need to be poured continuously or are these rods eventually going to start to cool down or lose activity on their own? Do they have some sort of end in sight?
WALSH: Well, we don't know what they're thinking, but I -- you know, I assume you have to tell yourself a story that there's an end here. Otherwise, you know, it's hard to keep going.
And I think they can plausibly tell themselves a story that, as over the days, as reactors one, two and three begin to cool, that maybe they can get that under control. The story for reactors three and four in that nuclear waste in those spent fuel ponds, that's a harder challenge, and one can see that going on and on and on. You know, as long as they dump water in it, that buys them time so that maybe they can jury-rig a cooling system up that -- so that the water stays in there and maybe is circulating and reduce the heat.
But you know, Sanjay, tomorrow -- and I hope -- you know, God knows I hope this isn't the case -- but you could be working your heart out. You're under all this stress. You think you're making some progress. And then if tomorrow there's a hydrogen explosion or a spike in radiation or a friend of yours dies, you know, I assume that can -- you're back right where you started. So I think every day is going to be a struggle for them.
COOPER: One U.S. nuclear official has just said in the United States, that, you know, this is going to go on for some time, maybe even a matter of weeks trying to get water and cool down these spent fuel rods. And that's really where the focus is right now. Besides restoring electricity, that's kind of a bigger picture thing.
They are literally in a battle for their lives, trying to pour water in whatever ways they can, in pretty desperate, unconventional ways to pour water on those spent fuel rods.
COREN: Yes, they are. That's exactly right. I mean, there was talk they established a power line from the grid outside, but that has not eventuated. They're using helicopters and water cannons to try and cool down these reactors. But so far it's not working. And there's not a lot of information coming out from TEPCO about the workers.
COOPER: Jim, I don't understand, we see them dropping from a Chinook helicopter, you know, an amount of water, about seven tons, which certainly sounds like a lot.
But the amount of water that's actually needed to cover these fuel rods, you're talking about 30, 35 feet of water, as I understand it, over these spent fuel rods. You know, when people fight forest fires in the United States, they have those big planes that scoop up water from the sea and drop huge amounts of water. Is that an option here?
WALSH: Well, it's a great question. You know, to get first to your point, you need to put the water in, and then you need to replenish it over and over again. Because even if you're lucky enough to hit it and get some water in there, those rods are hot, and they're going to start -- that water is going to begin to evaporate from the heat of the rods. So it's not one and off. You've got to go again and again and again and again. And I think they're going to have to continue at this.
You know, you raised the issue about other plants. I must say, people watching this show have written hundreds of e-mails to me, and there have been all sorts of suggestions. I apologize that I haven't been able to respond to them all individually. People have talked -- have suggested to me robots. They've suggested different types of water cannons. So you know -- so there are a lot of people out there, regular Americans, who are trying to brainstorm and come up with ideas, different ways to attack the problem.
COOPER: It also raises the question of whether Japanese officials have really asked for help as quickly as they should have. A lot of people in the United States are looking at, you know, have been trying to get iodine pills. That's something that is not necessary, you're saying, that there's no danger of this radiation really hitting the United States in an significant amount.
GUPTA: I think we can say that almost pretty convincingly. As things stand right now, we hear that the amount of radiation that's been released at its peak, to put it in perspective, was a couple of millisieverts per hour. Now, the background amount radiation that you get in an entire year is about that much. So what you get in a year you're getting in an hour. That's a lot, obviously, but it's still well below human health impact. And certainly, you think about it traveling all the way across the ocean, even less so.
COOPER: I've just been given some new information, Jim, and I want to make sure I'm getting it right. So if I could jut get it repeated in my ear. TEPCO has now come out -- to make sure I'm saying this right -- TEPCO has now come out and said that the amount of radiation released has actually peaked Friday, today. What was the measurement? Twenty millisieverts per hour. Today, we have seen the greatest amount of radiation being released.
Jim, what do you make of that?
WALSH: Well, that's not the direction you want it to go in. You want it to be declining rather than increasing. If it was a rapid spike, you might say, well, maybe there was a problem in one of the -- with the containment vessels. Maybe there had been a rupture and a leakage. But that -- that doesn't seem to be the way things have played out these last several days.
But if there's a general increase, a sort of slow rise, that would sort of point to nuclear waste in the spent fuel ponds and that there's insufficient water there and that they may be contributing to an increase in the -- in the total radiation level in the immediate area. That's -- that's just a guess.
It's hard to react to. It seems like every time we're on at this time, there's breaking news that we're struggling to try to make sense of. But given what you're saying, if the radiation levels are increasing, the most important conclusion from that is that that is not good news.
COOPER: Not good news and, again, brings us back to the discrepancy between what the United States says is actually happening on the ground and what Japanese officials.
And the U.S. yesterday saying things are actually much more dire, much worse than Japanese officials have previously said, in particular in reactor No. 4 in the spent fuel rod pond or pool, they say -- a U.S. official yesterday said there was little to no water.
Japanese officials today point to this new video gotten in a fly- by where there was a glint, a slight glimmer of light, and they say that was a reflection off water. How much water they don't know.
Frankly, that's inconclusive. We simply do not know whether there is or is not water. A U.S. official says there may be small amounts or no water at all. And if now temperatures are rising and radiation levels are rising, clearly, there's not enough water, whether it's reactor four or reactor three or both.
COREN: There's such a lack of information coming out, and all these different departments and government bodies speaking. So, you know, the people here in Japan, the ones that we've spoken to, just want the government, want TEPCO to be transparent, to be open...
COREN: ... so that they can make informed decisions on their own.
GUPTA: And it's conflicting, as well, even within the single organization. So it's not just conflicting with other organizations. They've contradicted themselves on issues like this, from everything from the readings to the amount of water to the radiation levels. So it's been very hard to decipher.
COOPER: Yes. And there's certainly a credibility gap, and a lot of Japanese people I've talked to here in Tokyo who are focused on this like a laser, are saying, "We just can't believe what we're hearing. We don't know whether or not it's true." And there's a real credibility gap.
Our coverage continues. We're going to try to investigate that statement now by TEPCO and find out more details of exactly what that means. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look at this. This goes out to an inlet. Within minutes, the force of this water just came and swept through this entire town. You can see everything here has been virtually wiped out. A few structures remain. Those structures are just barely hanging on, frankly, and it's very dangerous to even go inside them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as well. But, again, I just want to recap what is going on.
We've just gotten some disturbing news that radiation levels have actually peaked at their highest recorded levels so far in this entire crisis, in the seven days of this crisis. Today, a reading was taken near where workers were trying to reestablish that power line, which we've been talking about. They did a reading and it was -- I want to make sure I'm getting this right, near where they were trying to reestablish the power line, radiation peaked at 20 millisieverts per hour. That's the highest registered so far, according to TEPCO.
GUPTA: It is. And the last I heard was around three to four millisieverts per hour. So...
COOPER: It's a huge jump.
GUPTA: This is an exponential, you know, five, jump up. Now, just for a moment of contrast, you're walking around doing your job, you get about three millisieverts per year. And before we're saying you're getting that much in an hour, a couple of days ago. And now you're getting 20 millisieverts in an hour.
So now seven times in one hour what a typical person gets in a year. And I did say they're still saying, the official in part of that press conference, saying that they're not thinking that this is going to have an impact on human health. This is not something that's been studied. I mean, you wouldn't knowingly expose people to gamma radiation, these levels, to see what it does to human health. But they're just basing that on theoretical evidence and Chernobyl.
COOPER: Scary stuff. They've also raised the legal limit of radiation that workers at the plant for their help but just needy people to be exposed to.
GUPTA: That's right.
COOPER: Clearly not out of consideration for their health, but because they need people to be able to work at this plant, so they've raised the legal limit.
GUPTA: They keep rotating people in and out. The longer they can work if they raise those limits.
COOPER: Imagine being one of those workers at that plant, would you do that? That's the dedication.
GUPTA: And they know. These are people who work in this field, they know what this radiation is. They're probably checking the levels and they know the health effects.
COOPER: There's large numbers of Japanese military personnel and Japanese police personnel also Japanese police personnel working amongst them.
Again, all of Japan clearly, and we see this on television, we hear it, we read it in Japanese papers. Everybody is think and praying for the well-being of these people who are sacrificing so much.
I want to bring in Brian Todd, who's in northeaster Japan, as well as our own Gary Tuchman to focus on the other story, which frankly, has gotten lost sometimes in all the focus on the nuclear emergencies, the emergency for those whoa re still living in northeastern Japan, half a million homeless. Search and rescue crews still going out.
Brian Todd is with two American search-and-rescue crews, one from Fairfax County, Virginia, the other from Los Angeles.
Brian, have those crews actually found anybody alive yet?
TODD: They have not, Anderson. They fanned out to three different cities while we've been with them, and they have not found any survivors yet. They got here later than they wanted to get here. Part of the big story here is they slowed down the operation because of bureaucracy and politics, getting them here later than they wanted to, decreasing their odds significantly finding people alive. But they were determined to try. They fanned out, they got there. Once they got on the ground, they got out to these cities very quickly and did what they do. But so far, no survivors found.
COOPER: I want to show you some of what Gary Tuchman has seen over the last 24 hours. Take a look.
TUCHMAN: You can see the mud. I mean, it's an insurmountable amount of mud to shovel just to clean up this driveway. And they not only want to move back in this house, but they want to clean up, this family, and get an idea if it's possible to move back.
And it's so cold out right now, and the snow is coming down again. What they've done is they put together this portable heater unit so they can work into the night and not freeze.
(voice-over) Friends are helping them with the physical work and the psychological support. Seventeen-year-old Ren, his mother Chicako (ph) and his father, Hidenitsu (ph), are in a state of shock. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have no words to express my feelings. I lost my mind. We will have to start from zero.
COOPER: Gary, for those who are still living and are homeless, I mean, I've been hearing food supplies are low, water supplies are low in some of these shelters.
TUCHMAN: Yes, it's a big problem with food supplies and water supplies. There are convenience stores that are open in this area now, Anderson, but you can't find meat. You can't find produce. You can't find water. You can't find milk. You can find cigarettes. You can find soda. You can find cookies and crackers, but you can't find those staples.
And also a big problem, the gasoline. We just passed one of the few gas stations open. I stopped counting at 300 cars in the line for three pumps. Takes six or seven hours to get gasoline.
But for people like this who don't know if they're ever going to be able to move back into this house, fortunately, Japan is a very family-oriented country. Many people are moving in with their parents, moving in with their children. But there are still tens of thousands of people in this area alone who are living in shelters.
COOPER: It is so sad. such sadness. We continue to follow that. When we come back, we're going to check in with the other breaking story tonight, the U.N. resolution authorizing not just a no- fly zone but any and all actions designed to protect civilians on the ground in Libya. John King is at the magic wall with a look at what exactly that means on the ground, the possibilities of how a no-fly zone and other actions might work.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Want to take a look at what a no-fly zone might look like for troops on the ground and Libyan forces all throughout. Let's go to John King and the magic wall -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the big question after the dramatic vote at the United Nations Security Council is what next? Here's another question: is it too late?
Is it too late? I raise that because if you look back into late February, you see the green cities? These are under opposition control. Now this update. As Gadhafi forces have moved against trying to crush the opposition, you see the government, the regime has taken control of much more of the vital cities along the northern coast. Opposition still centered here in the east, though. As we watch this play out, what exactly would a no-fly zone mean?
Where would the initial strikes come from? Cruise missile strikes could come from some NATO assets in the area. Any no-fly zone could be enforced from NATO air bases up in Italy, although the administration has been adamant that it wants Arab nations to be involved, as well.
Egypt has an air force, the United Arab Emirates. Qatar has an air force, as well. The main concern and one of the reasons Secretary Gates has been so cautious is he believes you would have to take out all of these Libyan military installations, deny the analyze. Perhaps you can crater the runways. That would at least temporarily stop those flights.
But the issue in the early hours of any no-fly zone would be Gadhafi's significant surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft systems, again located here along the strategic north coast.
These purple circles, longer range surface-to-air missiles that would imperil any pilots in a no-fly zone. These smaller circles are more localized around the major cities here. Secretary Gates and others warning that if you have a no-fly zone, in the early hours, these would be the greatest risk to any pilots.