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Sarkozy arrives in Japan to discuss nuclear issues with Kan

JAPAN, March 31, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / KYODO NEWS) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived Thursday in Japan to discuss the drawn-out crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, as reported by KYODO NEWS AGENCY.

Sarkozy became the first foreign leader to visit Japan since the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that obliterated northeastern coastal towns and ravaged the nuclear facility.

He will express his solidarity with Japan, not only as the French leader but also as the chair of the Group of 20 leading industrialized and emerging economies.

He is also expected to say that France, which relies on nuclear power for nearly 80 percent of its electricity, is committed to offering more of its expertise to help Japan contain radiation spilling out of the crippled complex, located about 220 kilometers from Tokyo.

Kan and Sarkozy are scheduled to hold a joint news conference in the early evening shortly after their meeting at the premier’s office.

Sarkozy came to Tokyo for a brief visit after taking part in a G-20 seminar on reshaping the global monetary system in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

The president, visiting Japan for the second time since taking office in 2007, will head back to France soon after the news conference, according to Japanese officials.

France now holds the rotating presidency of the G-20 and Group of Eight major powers, both of which Japan is a member country.

France has the second most nuclear power stations of any country after the United States. Japan has the third most, deriving about 30 percent of its power from nuclear reactors.

Following the serious accident at the Fukushima plant, nuclear issues will top the agenda at the G-8 summit in late May, when leaders also from Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States gather in the northwestern French resort city of Deauville.

Kan and Sarkozy will almost certainly also discuss the situation in Libya, given that France has been taking a major role in demanding Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s immediate resignation, according to the Foreign Ministry officials.  (*)

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in World News

 

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No options but to close Fukushima nuke plant – Japanese Prime Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

JAPAN, March 31, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / RIA NOVOSTI / KYODO NEWS ) — Japan’s troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will most likely be closed down, the Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday, quoting Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

“We cannot but close this nuclear power plant,” Kan said during a meeting with the leader of the Japanese Communist Party, Shii Kazuo, on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano suggested that all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant should be demolished. Tsunehisa Katsumata, the director of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) which owns the plant, said earlier on Wednesday that it would be reasonable to close down the first four reactors.

All six reactors were badly damaged after a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck eastern Japan on March 11. Reactors No. 5 and 6 reactors have been less problematic than the other four and are already in a state of cold shutdown.

Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said on Wednesday that the country’s nuclear power stations would be closed if they did not meet tougher safety requirements being drawn up by the government. (*)
 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in World News

 

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Japan orders immediate safety upgrade at nuclear plants

In this photo taken Sunday, March 27, 2011, Junpei Endo, 31, pauses on his bicycle after collecting mementos of his destroyed home where his father was killed during the March 11 massive tsunami waves that topped the neighborhood in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan. Endo grew up in the big green house down the street from 'Hiyori Yama' - Weather Hill. He left town three years ago, when he was 28, to work near Tokyo. After hearing about the tsunami, he drove back as fast as the roads would allow. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

TOKYO, March 30, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Japan ordered an immediate safety upgrade at its 55 nuclear power plants on Wednesday in its first acknowledgement that standards were inadequate when an earthquake and tsunami wrecked a facility nearly three weeks ago, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

As operators struggle to regain control of the damaged Daiichi nuclear reactors 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, radiation leakage continued, with radioactive iodine in the sea off the damaged plant at record levels. The state nuclear safety agency said the amounts were 3,355 times the legal limit.

Smoke was reported coming from a second damaged nuclear plant site in Fukushima on Wednesday, with authorities citing an electric distribution board as the problem.

It is not known how serious the problem was at the Daini plant, which has been put into cold shutdown and is several miles from the stricken Daiichi power facility.

Anger at Japan’s nuclear crisis saw more than 100 people, chanting “stop nuclear power”, protest outside the Tokyo headquarters of nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to use electric power that can kill people,” said Waseda University student Mina Umeda.

A Reuters investigation showed Japan and TEPCO repeatedly played down dangers at its nuclear plants and ignored warnings, including a 2007 tsunami study from the utility’s senior safety engineer.

The research paper concluded there was a roughly 10 percent chance that a tsunami could test or overrun the defenses of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant within a 50-year span based on the most conservative assumptions.

The new safety steps, to be completed by the end of April, include preparing back-up power in case of loss of power supply, and having fire trucks with hoses ready at all times to intervene and ensure cooling systems for both reactors and pools of used fuel are maintained, the Trade Ministry said.

Other measures such as building higher protective sea walls would be studied after a full assessment of the Fukushima disaster, officials said.

The immediate measures do not necessarily require nuclear plant operations to be halted, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda told a news conference.

“These are the minimum steps we can think of right now that should be done immediately,” said Kaieda.

“We shouldn’t wait until a so-called overhaul or a comprehensive revision — something major that would take a long time — is prepared. We should do whatever we can if and when there is something (which safety authorities agree is) viable and necessary,” he said.

Before the disaster, Japan’s nuclear reactors had provided about 30 percent of the nation’s electric power. The percentage had been expected to rise to 50 percent by 2030, among the highest in the world.

NO END IN SIGHT

The government and TEPCO conceded there was no end in sight to Japan’s nuclear crisis.

“We are not in a situation where we can say we will have this under control by a certain period,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news briefing.

The discovery of highly toxic plutonium in soil at Daiichi had raised alarm over the disaster, which has overshadowed the humanitarian calamity triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, which left 27,500 people dead or missing.

TEPCO will test sprinkling synthetic resin in some areas of the Daiichi complex to prevent radioactive dust from flying into the air or being washed into the ocean by rain. The resin is water-soluble, but when the water evaporates, it becomes sticky and contains the dust.

Pollution of the ocean is a serious concern for a country where fish is central to the diet. Experts say the vastness of the ocean and a powerful current should dilute high levels of radiation, limiting the danger of marine contamination.

However, just how radiation is spilling into the ocean is unclear and controlling leakage from the plant could take weeks or months, making precise risk assessments difficult.

Tokyo Electric said it would take a “fairly long time” to stabilize overheating reactors, adding four of the six reactors would need to be decommissioned. Meanwhile, the head of the company was in hospital due to high blood pressure, adding to the disarray at Asia’s largest utility.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose government faces mounting criticism for its handling of the crisis, won assurances of American support in a telephone conversation on Wednesday with President Barack Obama.

The United States has already agreed to send some radiation-detecting robots to Japan to help explore the reactor cores and spent fuel pools at the stricken nuclear plant.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the G20 and G8 blocs of nations, is due to visit Tokyo on Thursday. He will be the first foreign leader in Japan since the disaster.

In further support, France flew in two experts from its state-owned nuclear reactor maker Areva and its CEA nuclear research body to assist TEPCO.

DRAG ON ECONOMY

Hundreds of engineers have been toiling for nearly three weeks to cool the plant’s reactors and avert a catastrophic meltdown of fuel rods, although the situation appears to have moved back from that nightmare scenario.

Jesper Koll, director of equity research at JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo, said a drawn-out battle to bring the plant under control and manage the radioactivity being released would perpetuate the uncertainty and act as a drag on the economy.

“The worst-case scenario is that this drags on not one month or two months or six months, but for two years, or indefinitely,” he said. “Japan will be bypassed. That is the real nightmare scenario.”

Japan’s main stock index has fallen about 9 percent since the tsunami while TEPCO shares have fallen almost 80 percent. The government is considering a tax increase to pay for the damage it estimates at $300 billion in what could be the world’s costliest natural disaster.

Already criticized for weak leadership during Japan’s worst crisis since World War Two, Kan has been blasted by the opposition for his handling of the disaster and for not widening the exclusion zone beyond 20 km (12 miles) around Fukushima.

Kan said he was considering that step, which would force 130,000 people to move, in addition to 70,000 already displaced.

Hundreds of thousands whose homes and livelihoods were wiped away by the tsunami that obliterated cities on the northeast coast have heard next to nothing from the government about whether it will help them to rebuild.

About 175,000 were living in shelters on high ground above the vast plains of mud-covered debris with temporary housing for only a few hundred currently under construction. (*)
 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in World News

 

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Japan on 'maximum alert' over nuclear plant

Engineers check facilities at the central control room of the Fukushima nuclear power plant at Okuma town. Japan said it was on "maximum alert" over a crippled nuclear plant where radioactive water has halted repair work and plutonium has been found in the soil. (AFP/Nuclear and Industrial Safety/ Jiji Press)

SENDAI, Japan, March 30, 2011  (KATAKAMI.COM / AFP) – Japan said it was on “maximum alert” over a crippled nuclear plant where radioactive water has halted repair work and plutonium has been found in the soil, AFP reported.

The level of radioactive iodine in the sea off Fukushima reached its highest reading yet at 3,355 times the legal limit, Jiji press said Wednesday.

The earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeast coast and left about 28,000 dead or missing also knocked out reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, which has leaked radiation into the air and sea.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan conceded the situation at the coastal atomic power station remained “unpredictable” and pledged his government would “tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert”.

In a stop-gap measure to contain the crisis at the plant, crews have poured thousands of tons of water onto reactors where fuel rods are thought to have partially melted, and topped up pools for spent fuel rods.

But the run-off of the operation has accumulated in the basements of turbine rooms connected to three reactors and filled up tunnels, making it too risky for workers to go near to repair cooling systems needed to stabilise the plant.

One tunnel alone holds 6,000 cubic metres (212,000 cubic feet) of contaminated water, more than two Olympic swimming pools. Still, the only choice for now is to keep pumping water, said government spokesman Yukio Edano.

“Continuing the cooling is unavoidable… We need to prioritise injecting water,” Edano told reporters.

If the rods are fully exposed to the air, they would rapidly heat up, melt down and spew out far greater plumes of radiation at the site, located about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, nuclear experts fear.

Workers have piled sandbags and concrete blocks around the tunnel shafts to contain the water, the nuclear regulatory body said. They have now also restored light in the control rooms of reactors one to four.

The water out of reactor two has measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour — four times the recently-hiked total exposure limit for emergency staff, and a level that can cause radiation sickness with nausea and vomiting in an hour.

Adding to the nuclear fears, embattled operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said plutonium had been detected in soil samples that were taken a week ago at five spots in the plant.

Nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said the plutonium data suggested “certain damage to fuel rods”, Kyodo News reported.

The US environmental protection agency says internal exposure to plutonium “is an extremely serious health hazard” as it stays in the body for decades, exposing organs and tissue to radiation and increasing the risk of cancer.

TEPCO shares plunged 18.67 percent on Tuesday, and have now lost nearly three quarters of their pre-crisis value. News reports said the government is considering taking a majority stake in the power company.

Fears have grown in Japan over food and water safety, and vegetable and dairy shipments from four prefectures have been halted.

Japan’s government has evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from within 20 kilometres of the plant, and more recently encouraged those remaining within 30 kilometres to also leave.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace, which has taken its own measurements in the town of Iitate, 40 kilometres from the plant, urged the government to evacuate the town, especially children and pregnant women.

“Remaining in Iitate for just a few days could mean receiving the maximum permissible annual dose of radiation,” Greenpeace radiation expert Jan van der Putte said.

Jitters continued throughout Asia, with China, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam reporting that radiation had drifted over their territories, even though they emphasised the levels were so small there was no health risk.

Traces of radioactive iodine believed to be from Japan’s damaged nuclear plant have even been detected as far afield as Britain, officials said Tuesday.

“We would like to ask the public not to panic. These are very tiny amounts in the air,” Philippine Nuclear Research Institute spokeswoman Tina Cerbolis said, echoing officials in the other countries to have detected the radiation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently heads the G8 and G20 blocs, will travel to Japan Thursday to meet Prime Minister Kan as a show of solidarity, according to his office.

The United States said it would send Japan radiation-resistant robots and trained staff to operate them, aiming to collect information about the reactors from areas too unsafe for humans to enter.  (*)

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in World News

 

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Japan on 'maximum alert' over N-crisis ; Japanese PM

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

JAPAN, March 29, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government is in a “state of maximum alert” over the deepening radiation crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, as reported by PRESS TV CHANNEL on Tuesday.


Addressing a lower house budget committee, Kan said that the situation “continues to be unpredictable” and that the government “will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert,” AFP reported.

Kan’s remarks come as traces of radioactivity from damaged nuclear facilities in Japan have been detected in rainwater in the northeast United States.

Ohio reported elevated radiation levels in rainwater on Monday, a day after monitors for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found similar cases in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Experts at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio reported small amounts of Iodine 131 from Japan in precipitation on Monday.

“In theory, the Iodine 131 could have come from any radioactive waste processing facility. But we know it’s from Japan. The isotope is being seen worldwide,” said geology professor Gerald Matisoff, who monitors rainwater carried into Lake Erie for the EPA.

The EPA has been monitoring radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was battered in the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, and had previously detected “very low levels of radioactive material” in the United States.

The agency said that these levels “were expected as a result of the nuclear incident after the events in Japan since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere,” and that “the levels detected are far below levels of public health concern.”

The US institute has, however, stepped up its monitoring of precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes for radiation as a precaution. (*)

 
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Toxic plutonium seeping from Japan's nuclear plant

TOKYO, March 29, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) – Highly toxic plutonium is seeping from the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan’s tsunami disaster zone into the soil outside, officials said Tuesday, further complicating the delicate operation to stabilize the overheated facility, AP reported on Tuesday.
Plutonium has been detected in small amounts at several spots outside the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant for the first time, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Safety officials said the amounts were not a risk to humans but support suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods — a worrying development in the race to bring the power plant under control.

“The situation is very grave,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Tuesday. “We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage.”

A tsunami spawned by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11 destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods in the complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the complex’s six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have grappled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have sent workers fleeing.

Radiation seeping from the plant has made its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far away as Tokyo, prompting some nations to halt imports from the region. Residents within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the plant have been urged to leave or stay indoors.

The troubles have eclipsed Pennsylvania’s 1979 crisis at Three Mile Island, when a partial meltdown raised fears of widespread radiation release. But it is still well short of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates and spewed radiation across much of the northern hemisphere.

A series of missteps and accidents, meanwhile, have raised questions about the handling of the disaster, with the government revealing growing frustration with TEPCO.

The Yomiuri daily newspaper reported that the government was considering temporarily nationalizing the troubled nuclear plant operator, but Edano and TEPCO officials denied holding any such discussions.

The nuclear crisis has complicated the government’s ability to address the humanitarian situation facing hundreds of thousands left homeless by the twin disasters. The official number of dead surpassed 11,000 on Tuesday, police said, and the final figure is expected to top 18,000.

The urgent mission to stabilize the Fukushima plant has been fraught with setbacks.

Workers succeeded last week in reconnecting some parts of the plant to the power grid. But as they pumped water into units to cool the reactors down, they discovered pools of contaminated water in numerous spots, including the basements of several buildings and in tunnels outside them.

The contaminated water has been emitting radiation exposures more than four times the amount the government considers safe for workers and must be pumped out before electricity can be restored to the cooling system.

That has left officials struggling with two crucial but sometimes-contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out — and then safely storing — contaminated water.

Nuclear safety official Hidehiko Nishiyama called it “delicate work.” He acknowledged that cooling the reactors took precedence over concerns about leakage.

“The removal of the contaminated water is the most urgent task now, and hopefully we can adjust the amount of cooling water going in,” he said, adding that workers were building makeshift dikes with sandbags to keep contaminated water from seeping into the soil outside.

The discovery of plutonium, released from fuel rods only when temperatures are extremely high, confirms the severity of the damage, Nishiyama said.

Of the five soil samples showing plutonium, two appeared to be coming from leaking reactors while the rest were likely the result of years of nuclear tests that left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world, TEPCO said.

Plutonium is a heavy element that doesn’t readily combine with other elements, so it is less likely to spread than some of the lighter, more volatile radioactive materials detected around the site, such as the radioactive forms of cesium and iodine.

“The relative toxicity of plutonium is much higher than that of iodine or cesium but the chance of people getting a dose of it is much lower,” says Robert Henkin, professor emeritus of radiology at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. “Plutonium just sits there and is a nasty actor.”

When plutonium decays, it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation.

Plutonium also breaks down very slowly, so it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

“If you inhale it, it’s there and it stays there forever,” said Alan Lockwood, a professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University at Buffalo and a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group.  (*)
 
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More radioactive water spills at Japan nuke plant

People work in the control room of reactor No. 2 with restored lighting at the earthquake and tsunami affected Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima in this March 26, 2011 photo

TOKYO, March 29. 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP ) – Workers have discovered new pools of radioactive water leaking from Japan’s crippled nuclear complex that officials believe are behind soaring levels of radiation spreading to soil and seawater, AP reported.

Crews also detected plutonium — a key ingredient in nuclear weapons — in the soil outside the complex, though officials insisted Monday the finding posed no threat to public health.

Plutonium is present in the fuel at the complex, which has been leaking radiation for more than two weeks, so experts had expected to find traces once crews began searching for evidence of it this week.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was crippled March 11 when a tsunami spawned by a powerful earthquake slammed into Japan’s northeastern coast. The huge wave destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods in the complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the complex’s six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have struggled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have forced temporary evacuations.

Confusion at the plant has intensified fears that the nuclear crisis will continue for months or even years amid alarms over radiation making its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far away as Tokyo.

The troubles have eclipsed Pennsylvania’s 1979 crisis at Three Mile Island, when a partial meltdown raised fears of widespread radiation release. But it is still well short of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates and spewed radiation across much of the northern hemisphere.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the complex, said plutonium was found in soil at five locations at the nuclear plant, but that only two samples appeared to be plutonium from the leaking reactors. The rest came from years of nuclear tests that left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world.

Plutonium is a heavy element that doesn’t readily combine with other elements, so it is less likely to spread than some of the lighter, more volatile radioactive materials detected around the site, such as the radioactive forms of cesium and iodine.

“The relative toxicity of plutonium is much higher than that of iodine or cesium but the chance of people getting a dose of it is much lower,” says Robert Henkin, professor emeritus of radiology at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. “Plutonium just sits there and is a nasty actor.”

The trouble comes if plutonium finds a way into the human body. The fear in Japan is that water containing plutonium at the station turns to steam and is breathed in, or that the contaminated water from the station migrates into drinking water.

When plutonium decays it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation.

Plutonium also breaks down very slowly, so it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

“If you inhale it, it’s there and it stays there forever,” said Alan Lockwood, a professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University at Buffalo and a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group.

While parts of the Japanese plant have been reconnected to the power grid, the contaminated water — which has now been found in numerous places around the complex, including the basements of several buildings — must be pumped out before electricity can be restored to the cooling system.

That has left officials struggling with two sometimes-contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out — and then safely storing — contaminated water.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, called that balance “very delicate work.”

He also said workers were still looking for safe ways to store the radioactive water. “We are exploring all means,” he said.

Meanwhile, new readings showed ocean contamination had spread about a mile (1.6 kilometers) farther north of the nuclear site than before, but was still within the 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the evacuation zone. Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered offshore at a level 1,150 times higher than normal, Nishiyama told reporters.

Closer to the plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week and climbed to 1,850 times normal over the weekend. Nishiyama said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

The buildup of radioactive water in the nuclear complex first became a problem last week, when it splashed over the boots of two workers, burning them and prompting a temporary suspension of work.

Then on Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said workers had found more radioactive water in deep trenches used for pipes and electrical wiring outside three units.

The contaminated water has been emitting radiation exposures more than four times the amount the government considers safe for workers.

The five workers in the area at the time were not hurt, said TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita.

Exactly where the water is coming from remains unclear, though many suspect it is cooling water that has leaked from one of the disabled reactors.

It could take weeks to pump out the radioactive water, said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

“Battling the contamination so workers can work there is going to be an ongoing problem,” he said.

Amid reports that people had been sneaking back into the mandatory evacuation zone around the nuclear complex, the chief government spokesman again urged residents to stay out. Yukio Edano said contaminants posed a “big” health risk in that area.

Gregory Jaczko, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, arrived in Tokyo on Monday to meet with Japanese officials and discuss the situation.

“The unprecedented challenge before us remains serious, and our best experts remain fully engaged to help Japan,” Jaczko was quoted as saying in a U.S. Embassy statement.

Early Monday, a strong earthquake shook the northeastern coast and prompted a brief tsunami alert. The quake was measured at magnitude 6.5, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.

Scores of earthquakes have rattled the country over the past two weeks, adding to the sense of unease across Japan, where the final death toll is expected to top 18,000 people, with hundreds of thousands still homeless.

TEPCO officials said Sunday that radiation in leaking water in Unit 2 was 10 million times above normal — a report that sent employees fleeing. But the day ended with officials saying that figure had been miscalculated and the level was actually 100,000 times above normal, still very high but far better than the earlier results.

“This sort of mistake is not something that can be forgiven,” Edano said sternly Monday.  (*)
 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in World News

 

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