Radiation levels high in food, Japan fights n-fallout (Roundup)

March 19th, 2011 - 9:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, March 19 (IANS) Japan Saturday said radiation levels in food items were much higher than normal limits near its tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant as workers struggled to restore power to it to prevent a disaster.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said tainted milk and spinach were found in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, the two worst affected regions following the March 11 9 magnitude quake that triggered a deadly tsunami, killing thousands and causing havoc at the nuclear plant.

Edano refused to share details but urged the Japanese to stay calm.

The tsunami, with waves rising up to 10 meters, knocked off the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 240 km from Tokyo, leading to overheating.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said its workers should be able to reconnect the nuclear reactor to the electrical grid to restore the vital cooling functions.

But the company warned it would take time to bring the cooling systems back on line because the equipment at the plant had to be checked, Kyoto reported. Fukushima has six reactors.

Power was restored at reactors 5 and 6 through a diesel generator. Cables were being laid from reactor 2 to a temporary sub-station.

According to media reports, 7,320 people have been killed in the tsunami and earthquake. At least 11,370 people were still unaccounted for. Hundreds of thousands are still living in makeshift shelters and camps.

Water cannons were used for a third day Saturday to spray water on the reactors and spent fuel pools to lower their temperatures. Ninety tonnes of water were sprayed onto reactor 3, Kyodo news agency said.

Fuel rods need to be cooled for a long time, may be even months, after they are used. The loss of power supply in the March 11 tragedy meant that the rods had started heating with risks of radiation exposure.

Hydrogen explosions and fires have occurred, and core damage has been confirmed at three reactors.

Military helicopters flew over the facility Saturday so their heat-sensitive cameras could determine the temperatures at the reactors, the defence ministry said.

Japan has raised the rating of the nuclear accident up to level 5 on the 7-step International Nuclear Event Scale, labelling it an “accident with wider consequences” because reactor cores have been damaged.

The Three Mile Island accident in the US was categorised as level 5 while the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine was put at level 7.

Even eight days later, Japan is feeling strong aftershocks. A 6.1-magnitude quake shook eastern Japan Saturday, DPA reported. The epicentre lay about 130 km northeast of Tokyo.

Earlier in the day, another earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale jolted the east coast of Honshu. There were no reports of casualties.

A total of 262 aftershocks of magnitude 5 or more have been registered.

With the risk of radiation from Fukushima plant rising, everyone in the nearby Futaba town have been moved to Saitama city, a media report said.

Many of the town’s 6,900 people have taken shelter at another city, NHK reported.

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