Japan tsunami devestation 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/US Navy)
TOKYO - Japan's Nuclear Safety Agency said that pumping of water into three Japanese reactors to cool them was halted for about 50 minutes after the latest 7.1 aftershock on Monday, but that it was unlikely to have any impact on safety.
Senior agency official, Hidehiko Nishiyama, said: "It was stopped for about 50 minutes... safety issues are unlikely to have occurred from this."
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The US Geological Survey reported that the very shallow quake was centered 14 miles (22 km)southwest of Iwaki, south of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
Pacific Tsunami Center said the quake would had not triggered a
widespread tsunami that could reach the US and Canadian West coasts but
could cause a local one.
Japan said on Monday it may extend some
parts of an evacuation zone around its crippled nuclear plant if tests
show high radiation outside the area, imposed after an earthquake and
tsunami sparked the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
has steadfastly refused to extend its 20 km (12 mile) evacuation zone,
despite international concerns over radiation spreading from the six
damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima which engineers are still
struggling to bring under control a month after they were wrecked by the
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the existing area was sufficient as the risk of an accident was now lower.
the government might extend the evacuation zone if tests show high
levels of accumulated radiation in specific areas, he said. The Asahi
newspaper said evacuations may extend 30 km out from the plant.
won't be based on a radius zone-type (evacuation)...from the
perspective of accumulated radiation, we need appropriate steps to
ensure safety," Edano told reporters.
Japanese Prime Minister
Naoto Kan told parliament last month that widening the area would force
130,000 people to move in addition to 70,000 already displaced.
of one village, Iitate which is 40 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant,
have been told to prepare for evacuation because of prolonged exposure
to radiation, a local official told Reuters by phone. The village has a
population of 5,000.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has
urged Japan to extend the zone and countries like the United States and
Australia have advised citizens to stay 80 km away from the plant.
Japan Times said authorities would soon forcibly close the 20 km zone,
stopping people returning to their shattered homes to pick through the
rubble for belongings.
The president of Tokyo Electric Power Co
(TEPCO) , which operates the plant, plans to visit the area on Monday,
the first by Masatake Shimizu since the March 11 disaster.
has all but disappeared from public view apart from a brief apology
shortly after the crisis began and has spent some of the time since in
Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato was quoted by media as saying he would refuse to meet Shimizu during his visit.
has criticised the evacuation policy, saying residents in a 20-30 km
radius were initially told to stay indoors and then advised to evacuate
"Residents in the 20-30 km radius were really confused about what to do." Sato told NHK television on Sunday.
at the damaged Daiichi plant north of Tokyo said they were no closer to
restoring the plant's cooling system which is critical if overheated
fuel rods are to be cooled and the six reactors brought under control.
a desperate move to cool highly radioactive fuel rods, operator Tokyo
Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has pumped water onto reactors, some of which
have experienced partial meltdown.
But the strategy has hindered
moves to restore the plant's internal cooling system, critical to end
the crisis, as engineers have had to focus how to store 60,000 tonnes of
Engineers have been forced to pump low-level
radioactive water, left by the tsunami, back into the sea in order to
free up storage capacity for highly contaminated water from reactors.
and South Korea have both criticised Japan for pumping radioactive
water into the sea, with Seoul calling it incompetent, reflecting
growing international unease over the month-long atomic disaster and the
spread of radiation.
TEPCO hopes to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean on Monday, days later than planned.
are also pumping nitrogen into reactors to counter a build-up of
hydrogen and prevent another explosion sending more radiation into the
air, but they say the risk of such a dramatic event has lowered
significantly since March 11.
The triple disaster is the worst to hit Japan since World War Two after a
9.0 magnitude earthquake and a huge tsunami battered its northeast
coast, leaving nearly 28,000 dead or missing and rocking the world's
Concern at Japan's inability contain its nuclear crisis is mounting with
Kan's ruling party suffering embarrassing losses in local elections on
Voters vented their anger at the government's handling of the nuclear
and humanitarian crisis, with Kan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan
losing nearly 70 seats in local elections.
The unpopular Kan was already under pressure to step down before March
11, but analysts say he is unlikely to be forced out during the crisis,
set to drag on for months.
"The great disaster was a double tragedy for Japan. The first tragedy
was the catastrophe caused by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear
accident. The other misfortune was that the disaster resulted in
prolonging Prime Minister Kan's time in office," Sankei newspaper said
in an editorial on Monday.