Fresh setback in Japan nuclear crisis22/03/2011 - 13:22:26
A pool for storing spent fuel at Japan's crippled nuclear plant is heating up, with temperatures around boiling point, an official said today.
Nuclear safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama told reporters that the high temperatures in the spent fuel pool are believed to be the cause of steam which has been drifting from Fukushima Dai-ichi's Unit 2 since yesterday.
The hot storage pool is another complication in bringing the plant under control and ending the nuclear crisis which followed the massive earthquake and tsunami which devastated the north-east coast on March 11.
If water in the pool bubbles away and exposes fuel rods, more radiation would be thrown off.
People at Fukushima city's main evacuation centre waited in long queues for bowls of hot noodle soup.
A truck delivered toilet paper and blankets. Many among the 1,400 people living in the crowded gymnasium came from communities near the nuclear plant and worry about radiation and weary of the daily routine of the displaced.
Public sentiment is such that Fukushima's governor rejected a meeting offered by the president of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, which runs the nuclear plant.
The nuclear crisis has added a broader dimension to the disaster unleashed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that pulverised the north-east coast, leaving more than 9,000 dead by official count and twice that in police estimates.
Three of Japan's big companies - Sony, Toyota and Honda - announced halts to production at plants in Japan due to a shortage of parts hit by many ruined factories in the disaster area.
Fears about radiation are reaching well beyond those living near Fukushima and the 430,000 displaced by the earthquake and tsunami to encompass large segments of Japan. Traces of radiation are being found in vegetables and raw milk from a swath of farmland, forcing a government ban on sales from those areas.
Sea water near the Fukushima plant is showing elevated levels of radioactive iodine and caesium, prompting the government to test seafood.
China, Japan's largest trading partner, has ordered testing of imports of Japanese food. The World Health Organisation has urged Japan to adopt stricter measures and reassure the public.
Government officials and health experts say the doses are low and not a threat to human health unless the tainted products are consumed in abnormally excessive quantities.
But the government measures to release data on radiation amounts, halt sales of some foods and test others are feeding public worries that the situation may grow more dire.
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