Quake-stricken Japan fights on to keep off nuclear crisis

08:30, March 21, 2011      

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This handout image, released by Japanese Self Defence Ministry on March 19, 2011 shows a fire engine dousing reactor number 3 of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station No.1 at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture on March 18, 2011. (Xinhua/AFP)

Japan on Sunday pushed on with its desperate efforts to contain a nuclear crisis triggered by last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami.


Japan's Defense Ministry said Sunday it succeeded in putting water into the No. 4 reactor at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

About 80 tons of water was believed to have been shot into the reactor's spent fuel pool in a 70-minute mission which ended at 9: 30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT).

In a separate move, the Tokyo Fire Department shot over 2,000 tons of water into a spent fuel pool of the No. 3 reactor in an overnight mission that lasted more than 13 hours until 3:40 a.m. local time Sunday.

However, nuclear safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said efforts to put water in the No. 3 reactor might not have been working.

He said the plant operator will release some radioactive gas from the reactor into the environment and that this may slow down work on restoring power and cooling systems to the unit.

That meant radiation levels around the plant would rise again, he said.

The cooling system was reactivated at the No. 6 reactor, thanks to restoration of electricity supply, and the temperature of its overheated spent fuel pool has dropped to around 40 degrees Celsius, according to the operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The company is trying to restore electricity to the No. 1 and 2 reactors later Sunday to restart the cooling system.

Engineers had hoped to reconnect power to the two reactors on Saturday but the work is taking longer than expected, partly because of water-spraying operations.

The power plant, about 220 km northeast of Tokyo, was stricken by the catastrophic March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which triggered a series of explosions and fires at four of its six reactors following failure of their cooling function due to the damaged power supplies.

A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck offshore Japan on March 11, creating a tsunami that swept over low-lying areas, carrying boats, cars and even buildings with it and destroying nearly everything in its path. More than 7,700 people have been confirmed dead so far, and 11,651 others are missing.

The disaster also damaged the seaside Fukushima nuclear power plant, which remains in crisis as workers are struggling under dangerous conditions to prevent a meltdown and major radiation leaks.

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