Monday, March 21, 2011



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Smoke delays repairs on Japan 
nuclear reactor

21/03/2011 - 13:06:49

Smoke billowed from two of the damaged Japanese nuclear reactors today, temporarily halting vital work to reconnect power lines and restore cooling systems to the complex.

Workers are racing to bring the plant under control, but the process is proceeding in fits and starts, hindered by incidents like the smoke and by the need to work methodically to make sure wiring, pumps and other machinery can be safely switched on.

What caused the smoke to billow first from Unit 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, and later from Unit 2, is under investigation. Workers were evacuated from the area to buildings nearby, though radiation levels remained steady, the officials said.

Problems have ranged far beyond the country's devastated north-east coast and the wrecked nuclear plant, handing the government what it has called Japan's worst crisis since the Second World War.

Rebuilding may cost as much as 235bn (€165.5bn) and the death toll is expected to be more than 18,000.

Traces of radiation are contaminating vegetables and some water supplies, although in amounts the government and health experts say do not pose a risk to human health in the short-term.

"Please do not overreact, and act calmly," said Chief Cabinet spokesman Yukio Edano in the government's latest appeal to ease public concerns. "Even if you eat contaminated vegetables several times, it will not harm your health at all."

He said Fukushima's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company., would compensate farmers affected by bans on the sale of raw milk, spinach and canola.

The troubles at Fukushima have in some ways overshadowed the natural catastrophe, threatening a wider disaster if the plant spews more concentrated forms of radiation than it has so far.

The nuclear safety agency and Tokyo Electric reported significant progress over the weekend and today.

Electrical teams, having finished connecting three of the plant's six units, hope to connect the rest by tomorrow.

Once done, however, pumps and other equipment have to be checked - and the reactors cleared of dangerous gas - before the power can be restored.

Today the Health Ministry advised Iitate, a village of 6,000 people about 19 miles from the plant, not to drink tap water due to raised levels of iodine.

Growing concerns about radiation add to the chain of disasters Japan has struggled with since the quake and resulting tsunami.




Japan nuclear crisis: fears over food contamination

Engineers have managed to rig power cables to all six reactors at the Fukushima complex, and restarted a water pump that will help reverse the overheating that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.
A spokesman for Tepco, the plant operator, said workers had to be briefly evacuated after light grey plume of smoke was spotted emanating from reactor three but added radiation levels had remained stable.
He said: "We are checking the cause of the smoke."
A small quantity of smoke was still coming out nearly two hours later, but engineers were reported to have resumed work.
Engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi facility, 155 miles northeast of Tokyo, had been racing to restore power to cooling systems at its six reactors to reverse the overheating that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.
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In the meantime, fire trucks are spraying water to help cool reactor fuel rod pools.
Asked if the worst of the nuclear crisis was over, Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said: "we believe so, but I don't want to make a blanket statement."
Gregory Jaczko, the US nuclear regulatory commission chairman, added that radiation levels at the site appeared to be falling.
But mounting concerns that radioactive particles already released into the atmosphere could have contaminated food and water supplies eclipsed the progress made in the battle to avert a catastrophic meltdown in the reactors.

Don’t cry for Japan: Like the Phoenix, it will rise from ashes
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