Radioactive water seeps into sea from stricken nuclear plant

09:38, April 03, 2011      

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An aerial view shows Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima in this March 17, 2011 file photo. From R-L: Reactors 1 to 4 are seen in this picture taken more than 30km (18 miles) offshore from the site shortly before the start of the water-dropping operation. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said on March 27, 2011 radiation 10 million times the usual level was detected in water that had accumulated at the No.2 reactor's turbine housing unit and a TEPCO official said that workers at the reactor had left to prevent exposure to radiation. (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

Highly radioactive water from a tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant seeped into the ocean Saturday as Japan's prime minister toured a town ravaged by the disaster.

Japanese authorities are attempting to stop additional leaks of contaminated water from the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean while checking other reactors for any such risks, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The nuclear complex has been spewing radioactivity since March 11, when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami knocked out power, disabling cooling systems and allowing radiation to spill from the overheating reactors. Authorities said the leak they identified Saturday could be the source of radioactivity found in coastal waters in recent days.

The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., is considering using a large artificial floating island, a "megafloat," to store contaminated water removed from the reactors.

Radiation quickly disperses in both air and water, and experts have said that it would be quickly diluted by the vast Pacific Ocean, where even large amounts have little effect.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited an operation base 20 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Saturday, telling workers "I want you to work with the belief that you can never lose the battle."

Kan went to the plant and flew over the tsunami-ravaged coast soon after the wave hit, but Saturday was the first time he set foot in one of the pulverized towns.

The prime minister also stopped in Rikuzentakata, where the town hall is one of the few buildings still standing. All its windows are blown out and a tangle of metal and other debris is piled in front of it.

Kan bowed his head for a minute of silence in front of the building. He met with the town's mayor, whose 38-year-old wife was swept away in the wave and is still missing. Officials fear about 25,000 people may have been killed, many of whose bodies have not been found.

"The government fully supports you until the end," Kan later told 250 people at an elementary school that is serving as an evacuation center.

Three weeks into recovery from the catastrophic earthquake and ensuing tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiich nuclear plant, efforts are continuing to be made to remove contaminated water before workers can step in to restore the cooling system.

It remains unclear, however, when authorities can get the plant under control.

In a televised address Friday, Kan said, "We cannot say that the plant has been sufficiently stabilized, but we are preparing for all kinds of situations and I am convinced that the plant can be stabilized."

The prime minister said he is "prepared for a long-term battle over the Fukushima nuclear plant and to win this battle," as Japan struggled with its worst crisis since World War II.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said late Friday the nuclear crisis will take a while to be resolved.

But he said the accident will not affect global reliance on nuclear technology, since it was not caused by human mistakes.

"The nuclear plant was not destroyed by human error and therefore IAEA will not influence member states to avoid the use of nuclear technology so long as they are in position to do it safely," Amano said.

The catastrophic earthquake and tsunami have left over 11,900 people dead and more than 15,000 others unaccounted for, the Japanese National Police Agency said Saturday.

A mission launched Friday involving thousands of Japanese and U.S. troops using planes, helicopters and boats sought to recover bodies still unaccounted for in coastal areas, where many are believed to have been swept out to sea by the surging tsunami.

The searchers have found nearly 50 bodies so far, most floating in coastal waters. Some bodies may have sunk and are just now resurfacing. Others may never be found.

Source: Xinhua

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