March 20, 2011 / 1:15 AM / 8 years ago

Light easterly winds forecast near Japan nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Light easterly winds are forecast for the area around quake-stricken nuclear reactors on the northeast coast of Japan, the weather agency said on Sunday.

The direction of the wind is important in gauging the likelihood of light levels of radiation leaking from the plant reaching heavily populated areas, especially Tokyo to the south.

So far the wind has blown mainly out into the Pacific.

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is about 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

The easterlies are expected to change to light westerlies, again heading into the Pacific, later in the day, according to the forecast.

Three hundred engineers have been battling inside the danger zone to try to cool down the reactors which were ravaged by the quake and tsunami on March 11. At least 7,650 people were killed, with almost 12,000 more missing.

The wind near the plant will blow as fast as five meters (16 ft) per second, the Meteorological Agency in Fukushima prefecture said.

On Saturday, traces of radiation exceeding national safety standards were found in milk from a farm about 30 km (18 miles) from the plant and in spinach grown in neighboring Ibaraki prefecture, the first discovery of contaminated food since the disaster.

Tiny levels of radioactive iodine have also been found in tap water in Tokyo, one of the world’s largest cities. Many tourists and expatriates have already left and residents are generally staying indoors.

Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Nick Macfie

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