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.
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
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.