Snapshot: Japan's nuclear crisis

TOKYO Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:00am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Following are main developments after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan and crippled a nuclear power station, raising the risk of uncontrolled radiation.

- Highly radioactive water has leaked from a reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO), says.

- Japan's nuclear agency says there is no sign of radioactive water getting into the sea and it is working to prevent that from happening.

* Plutonium has been found in the soil at various points within the Daiichi nuclear complex, operator TEPCO says.

- Environmental group Greenpeace says it has detected high levels of radiation outside an exclusion zone, but Japanese officials say levels away from the plant are not dangerous for humans.

- The Japanese government's chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, denounces as "absolutely unforgivable" erroneous radiation readings issued by TEPCO.

Edano also says high radiation levels, which prompted suspension of weekend work to bring reactor no. 2 under control, were caused by a partial meltdown of fuel rods. Airborne radiation was mainly contained within the reactor building.

- Workers were withdrawn from the reactor building after potentially lethal levels of radiation were detected in water there. Readings showed contamination 100,000 times normal in water at reactor no. 2 and 1,850 times normal in the nearby sea.

* TEPCO is seeking help from French firms including Electricite de France SA and Areva SA to stabilize reactors at the Fukushima complex, some 240 km (150 miles) from Tokyo, Kyodo news agency reports.

- A magnitude 6.5 earthquake shakes northern Japan on Monday morning, the latest in a series of aftershocks two weeks after the disaster. Officials issued, then withdrew, a warning for a 50-cm (two-foot) tsunami wave.

- TEPCO acknowledges it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

- Experts say radiation in the Pacific will quickly dissipate and officials say levels away from the plant are not dangerous for humans.

- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says it is time to reassess the emergency response framework of the international nuclear power industry. Leaders agreed at a European Union summit to submit reactors to "stress tests."

- Kyodo news agency, quoting a government source, says Prime Minister Naoto Kan's visit to the affected region the day after the disaster delayed TEPCO's response to the unfolding situation because of fears he could be exposed to radiation.

- Kan's approval ratings have edged higher, according to the first opinion poll taken since the quake and tsunami, but more than half disapprove of how the crisis involving the stricken nuclear plant has been handled, a survey published by Kyodo news agency shows.

- Japan chief cabinet secretary says 130,000 people living in an outer circle around Fukushima should consider leaving.

- Estimated cost of damage from the earthquake and tsunami to top $300 billion, making it the world's costliest natural disaster. The 1995 Kobe quake cost $100 billion while Hurricane Katrina caused $81 billion in damage.

- Official death toll from earthquake and tsunami exceeds 10,804, according to national police. Total number of missing stands at 16,244. Nearly a quarter of a million people are living in shelters.

(Tokyo bureau; Compiled by World Desk Asia)

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