Radiation pollution from Fukushima disaster only minor
The brave men and women working to prevent a nuclear catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant last night appeared to be winning the critical battle.
As Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirmed the multi-billion-dollar Fukushima nuclear plant would not be reactivated, 320 "samurai", as they are now called by the Japanese media, are working at Fukushima hosing down reactor buildings, reconnecting electricity cable to cooling systems and monitoring activity in and around the six reactors.
Radiation levels at the crippled plant 250km northeast of Tokyo had been falling since Saturday, the operators, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said, as efforts redoubled to connect power to all six reactors' cooling systems.
TEPCO hoped all the reactors would have continuously powered cooling capability by late today, the biggest step forward since the coastal power plant was immobilised by the earthquake then swept by a 7m tsunami wave.
The national government yesterday confirmed traces of radioactive iodine had been detected in tapwater in Greater Tokyo. The city centre is 250km from the nuclear emergency. Radioactive iodine was also found in Tochigi and Gunma prefectures north of the capital.
In all cases, however, the contamination was too insignificant to affect human health, the Ministry of Science and Technology said.
Traces of radioactive elements have been found in farm products, including spinach, 30km to 70km from Fukushima. The Associated Press reported that radioactivity had been detected in a shipment of peas to Taiwan, though again not at a risky level.
The official death toll had by yesterday reached 8133, with 12,272 people unaccounted for and presumed dead. However, police in Miyagi said the number of deaths in that prefecture alone would reach 15,000.
The Nikkei news website reported yesterday that at least seven emergency workers had suffered radioactivity exposure of more than 100 millisieverts, about seven times the dosage from a stomach X-ray. The maximum annual exposure allowable for TEPCO nuclear plant workers is 250 millisieverts.
Cables were connected to the No 1 and No 2 reactors on Saturday and technicians were testing yesterday before activating them. Temperatures in the spent fuel rod pools at No 5 and No 6 reactor buildings had been brought back to normal levels and firemen doused the No 4 reactor -- the condition of which caused a panic in Washington on Thursday.