Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan Nuke Crisis deepens Workers evacuated from Japan's N-plant

With Japan Nuke Crisis deepens the workers were evacuated from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant today after radiation levels surged 10 million times higher than usual, dealing a major blow to efforts to avoid a meltdown of the reactors.The radiation in the water is 10 million times higher than that seen usually in the No.2 reactor complex, according Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, 250-km north-east of capital Tokyo.

"We are examining the cause of this, but no work is being done there because of the high level of radiation," said (TEPCO), which later retracted the radioactivity result as it was taking another sample to get accurate levels.It said the data for iodine-134 announced earlier in the day was actually for another substance that has a longer half-life.Emergency workers trying to cool the nuclear plant were temporarily evacuated. Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said the figure is "quite high".

Tepco has come in for criticism for for a lack of transparency and promptness in providing information."We strongly urge Tepco to provide information to the government more promptly," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.Edano conceded that the progress was slow.More than two weeks after the devastating magnitude-9 quake and tsunami, leaving more than 27,000 people dead or unaccounted for, the government warned that the crisis was far from over."We'd like to be able to give a clear outline as to when this will be resolved, and those working at the site feel the same way," Edano was quoted as saying by NHK, the Japanese broadcaster.
"But I can't be anymore optimistic than what the reality of it is," he said.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has sent extra teams to the damaged plant, has also cautioned that the crisis could go on for months."This is a very serious accident by all standards," Yukiya Amano, the director-general IAEA, was quoted as saying by the New York Times."More efforts should be done to put an end to the accident," he said.

Adding to the concerns is the increasing level of radioactive iodine in the seawater near the plant, reaching 1,850.5 times the legal limit.On Friday, it was found to be 1,250.8 times the limit, the nuclear agency said.The nuclear safety agency said there is no immediate threat to people within the 20-kilometer evacuation zone from the nuclear power plant.It said seawater is dispersed by ocean currents and the contamination level will decline.TEPCO said it measured 2.9-billion becquerels of radiation per cubic cm of water from the basement of the turbine building attached to the Number 2 reactor, NHK reported.The level of contamination is about 1,000 times that of the leaked water already found in the basements of the Number 1 and 3 reactor turbine buildings, it said.Three workers at the No.3 reactor's turbine building, who were earlier exposed to contaminated water on March 24, are set to be discharged from medical care.
Japanese police said 10,489 people were confirmed dead and more than 16,600 missing after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.A total of 6,333 dead were counted in Miyagi Prefecture, while in Iwate Prefecture 3,152 people had been killed.In Fukushima Prefecture, 946 people died.

As part of efforts to bring the situation at the nuclear plant under control, TEPCO prepared to turn on the lights in the control room for the No. 4 reactor and inject fresh water into four reactors as a coolant, rather than sea water.It is seen as essential to prevent crystallized salt from seawater from hampering the smooth circulation of water and diminishing the cooling of the overheated fuel rods, Kyodo said.
Following the megaquake and tsunami, cooling functions failed at the No.1, No.2 and No.3 reactors and their cores partially melted.Top officers of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the US Pacific Fleet have agreed to share information on the troubled Fukushima plant and cooperate in solving the problem, NHK said.The head of the SDF Joint Staff Office, General Ryoichi Oriki, and US Admiral Patrick Walsh met as American forces sent a vessel carrying a large amount of fresh water to cool the nuclear plant.

Amid concerns over high level of radiation, Japan has banned shipments of foodstuffs grown in several prefectures around the damaged nuclear plant.Several countries - Australia, the European Union, the United States, Russia and other Asian importers - have already placed bans on some imports of vegetables, seafood and milk products from Japan.They are also monitoring Japanese seafood over fears of radioactive contamination.In the first opinion poll since the disaster struck, the approval rating for Prime Minister Naoto Kan increased by 8.4 percentage points to 28.3 per cent in comparison to an earlier survey in mid-February.

At the same time, 58.2 per cent of respondents did not approve of the government's handling of the nuclear crisis, while 39.3 per cent supported its efforts, the survey by Kyodo said.The crisis at the nuclear plant has overshadowed the massive relief and recovery effort from the devastation.Child welfare officials have launched an extensive search for children who have lost their parents or have gone missing following the quake.Akira Katsusawa, the head of the Yokohama central child consultation centre, was quoted as saying by Kyodo that "it is a scale (of work) unimaginable but we hope to do as much as we possibly can."

The devastation has left a huge backlog of thousands of bodies in makeshift morgues, forcing the government to go in for mass burial.Such an unceremonious disposal of the dead would be unthinkable in Japan in normal times.Media agencies

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