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WRAPUP 3-Japan says makes progress in nuclear crisis
March 19, 2011 / 5:46 PM / 7 years ago

WRAPUP 3-Japan says makes progress in nuclear crisis

 * Some progress in race to stabilise reactors
 * Radiation traces found in food and water
 * Quake and tsunami give Japan vast rebuilding task
 * More than 7,600 dead, nearly 11,750 missing

 (Adds IAEA, GM)	
 By Taiga Uranaka and Yoko Nishikawa	
 TOKYO, March 20 (Reuters) - Japan saw some success
in its race to avert disaster at a tsunami-damaged
power plant, though minor radiation leaks underlined 
perils from the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25
years ago.	
 Three hundred engineers have been battling inside
a danger zone to salvage the six-reactor Fukushima plant since
it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami that also killed
 7,653 people and left 11,746 more missing in
northeast Japan.	
 The unprecedented multiple crisis will cost the world's
third largest economy nearly $200 billion and require
 Japan's biggest reconstruction push since post-World War
 It has also set back nuclear power plans the world over.	
 Encouragingly for Japanese transfixed on work at the
Fukushima complex, the most critical reactor -- No. 3 which
 has highly toxic plutonium -- stabilised after fire trucks
doused it for hours with hundreds of tonnes of water. 	
 Work also advanced on bringing power back to water pumps
used to cool overheating nuclear fuel.	
 "We are making progress ... (but) we shouldn't be too
optimistic," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy-general at Japan's
Nuclear Safety Agency.	
  Technicians attached a power cable to the No. 1 and No. 2
reactors, hoping to restore electricity later in the day prior
to an attempt to switch the pumps on. 	
 They aim to reach No. 3 and 4 soon after that.	
 If successful, that could be a turning point in a crisis
 classed as bad as America's 1979 Three Mile Island
 If not, drastic measures may be required such as burying the
plant in sand and concrete as happened at Chernobyl after the
world's worst nuclear reactor disaster in 1986.	
 Facing criticism of its early handling of the situation,
plant operator TEPCO's president issued a
public apology for "causing such great concern and nuisance". 	
 Even after restoring power, the company faces a tricky
task reactivating the cooling pumps, with parts of the system
probably damaged from the quake or subsequent explosions. 	
  "The workers need to go through the plant, figure out what
survived and what didn't, what can be readily repaired and get
the cooling systems back up and running to deal with the cores
and the spent fuel pools," said David Lochbaum, of U.S. nuclear
watchdog the Union of Concerned Scientists.	
 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recognised
 Japan's progress during a trip to reassure residents of
eastern regions there was no immediate danger from the nuclear
 "Our Japanese colleagues are gradually, not right away and
with mistakes ... getting the situation under control," he said
in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. "The work is being done
properly, in the right way -- 24 hours a day."	
 Putin proposed freeing up energy for Japan by
increasing Russian gas supplies to Europe so more liquefied
natural gas (LNG) cargoes could go to the Asian nation. 	
 U.N. watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) also offered encouragement to Tokyo. Its chief Yukiya
Amano, who is Japanese, hailed the "strengthening" of work at
the site. 	
 On the negative side, evidence has begun emerging
of radiation leaks from the plant, including into food and
 Though public fear of radiation runs deep, and anxiety has
spread as far as the Pacific-facing side of the United States,
 Japanese officials say levels so far are not alarming.	
 Traces exceeding national safety standards were, though,
found in milk from a farm about 30 km (18 miles) from the plant
and spinach grown in neighbouring Ibaraki prefecture.  	
 The first discovery of contaminated food since the March 11
disaster is likely to heighten scrutiny of Japanese food
exports, especially in Asia, their biggest market. 	
 Tiny levels of radioactive iodine have also been found in
tap water in Tokyo, one of the world's largest cities about 240
km (150 miles) to south. Many tourists and expatriates have
already left and residents are generally staying indoors.	
 Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has kept a low profile during
the crisis except for shouting at plant operator Tokyo Electric
Power Co (TEPCO), sounded out the opposition about forming a
government of national unity to deal with the crisis. 	
 But the largest opposition party rejected that.	
 Showing the incredible power of the 9.0 magnitude
earthquake, the largest in tremor-prone Japan's recorded
history, Oshika peninsula in Miyagi prefecture shifted a whole
5.3 metres (17 ft) east and its land sank 1.2 metres (4 ft).	
 In contrast to the generally traumatic and negative images
so far, one video emerged showing the crew of a Japanese
coastguard vessel successfully riding a massive wave by turning
the bow directly at the wall of waters. 	
 The quake and ensuing 10-metre high tsunami devastated
Japan's north east coastal region, wiping towns off the map and
making more than 360,000 people homeless in a test for
the Asian nation's reputation for resilience and social
 Food, water, medicine and fuel are short in some parts, and
low temperatures during Japan's winter are not helping.	
 The traumatic hunt for bodies and missing people continues.	
 "This morning my next door neighbour came crying to me that
she still can't find her husband. All I could tell her was,
'We'll do our best, so just hold on a little longer,'" said fire
brigade officer Takao Sato in the disaster zone.	
 About 257,000 households in the north still have no
electricity and at least one million lack running water.	
 Japan's crisis  spooked  markets,
prompted a rare intervention by the G7 group of rich nations to
stabilize the yen  on Friday  , and may disrupt
supplies to auto and technology markets. 	
 Automaker General Motors Co said it was
suspending all nonessential spending and global travel, plus
freezing production at a plant in Spain and cancelling two
shifts in Germany while it assessed the impact of the Japan
 (Additional reporting by Elaine Lies, Tomasz Janowski in Tokyo,
and Yoko Kubota and Chang-ran Kim in Rikuzentakata; Gleb
Bryanski in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia; Eileen O'Grady in
Houston; Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall in Vienna; Suzanne
Cosgrove in Chicago; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne. Editing by
Jeremy Laurence)	

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