Japan official warns nuclear containment to take months

Attempts to pour concrete not stopping radioactive water leaking into sea; 2 workers' bodies missing since quake are found in Fukushima reactor .

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
April 3, 2011 15:15
3 minute read.
Smoke is seen coming from area of No. 3 reactor

Japan smoke from nuclear reactor 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power Co)

TOKYO - Japanese officials grappling on Sunday to end the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl tried to seal a crack that has been leaking radiation into the ocean from a crippled reactor.

An aide to embattled Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government's main task now was to stop the radiation leaks that are spooking the population and scaring away tourists. Other officials were more cautious of the prolonged effort to contain the situation.

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Japanese Nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama cautioned that it could take several months before Japan's nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant is brought under control, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.

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The spokesman said, "it would take a few months until we finally get things under control and have a better idea about the future," according to the report. He added, "We'll face a crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the end."

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it had found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in Fukushima on Saturday, generating readings 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside.

The leaks did not stop after concrete was poured into the pit, and TEPCO was turning to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any more contaminated water from going out.

"We are hoping that the polymers will absorb water and fill in the pipe to prevent water from flowing," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).

He said the latest effort to staunch the flow of radioactive water into the Pacific would start on Sunday afternoon and that workers would top the polymers with more concrete to hold in the water.

Nishiyama told reporters on Saturday that the crack "could be one source" of the radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to quell the damaged reactor.

On Sunday he added: "This [crack in the pit] for the first time clarified the relationship [of the contaminated water] with the sea."

Officials from the utility said checks of the other five reactors found no cracks.



Nishiyama said that to cool the damaged reactor, NISA was looking at alternatives to pumping in water, including an improvised air conditioning system, spraying the reactor fuel rods with vaporized water or using the plant's cleaning system.

Japanese nuclear power officials on Sunday announced that the bodies of two men, nuclear power plant workers missing since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, were discovered last week, BBC reported.

The two men were found in Fukushima reactor No. 4, where they were working when the quake struck. Their bodies were found on Wednesday but the announcement was delayed until Sunday so that their families could be notified, according to the report.

"It is deeply regrettable that we lose two employees who were trying to protect the safety of the power plant from the earthquake and tsunami," the Tokyo Electric Power Company chairman said in a statement Sunday.

Thousands of Japanese and US soldiers on Saturday conducted a search for bodies using dozens of ships and helicopters to sweep across land still under water along the northeast coast. The teams hope when a large spring tide recedes it will make it easier to spot bodies.

Radiation 4,000 times the legal limit has been detected in seawater near the Daiichi plant and a floating tanker was to be towed to Fukushima to store contaminated seawater. But until the plant's internal cooling system is reconnected radiation will flow from the plant.


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