Two American reporters, John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times and Steve Herman from Voice of America, drove into the evacuation zone around Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant on Wednesday and made it all the way to the facility's main gate.
There, Herman reports, they were told to turn around. And they had been previously ordered "not to open our vehicle windows and to report to a radiation screening center in the town of Tamura afterwards, where we should wash the truck."
As for what they saw, Herman says that "for most of the 20-kilometer journey we spotted only police, military and other official vehicles. Even those we could count on one hand. Not a single person was seen outside in Futaba and Okuma, which until March 11 [the date of the eartquake and tsunami that devastated the area] had a combined population of about 18,500. The doors of some businesses remain open through which people hastily fled when the ground shook with unprecedented fury."
And at the gate, they found what Herman says was an "extremely ironic proclamation." It was a sign, obviously put up before the March 11 disaster, that reads: "This month's safety slogan: Be sure to check everything and do a risk assessment. Zero disasters for this year."
He adds, by the way, that it's not illegal to be inside the evacuation zone — but likely will be soon as Japanese authorities move to further restrict the area. Herman also talked to CNN about the experience. While he tells the network that they brought along a radiation detector, which he says registered "a very small amount of radiation, Herman does not say whether they wore any protective gear.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released some photos of the damage at the plant, including this one: Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.