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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 30 August, 2014

Japan on “maximum alert” as nuclear and earthquake crises continue

Japanese PM says country facing worst crises in decades as nuclear officials say removing radioactive water from the Fukushima plant is an urgent task.

Divers search a house today which was swept into the sea by the 11 March tsunami.
Divers search a house today which was swept into the sea by the 11 March tsunami.
Image: Kyodo

JAPAN’S PRIME MINISTER Naoto Kan has said his government is in a state of “maximum alert” as it continues to tackle a nuclear crisis and recover from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

Kan told parliament today that the country is facing its biggest crises for decades and the situation remains unpredictable.

Police say that over 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000 as thousands remain missing.

Yesterday, traces of highly toxic plutonium were found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but plant operators the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) say it is not at dangerous levels. The traces suggest that the containment systems at the plant have clearly been breached.

The IAEA says that although plutonium traces in soil are common, the “isotopic composition” of these samples suggest the material came from the Fukushima reactor site.

Hidehiko Nishiyama from Japan’s nuclear safety described the situation as “worrisome” and said that although the radiation traces are not at harmful levels, he is “not optimistic”, the Guardian reports.

Efforts to restore power to the plant’s cooling systems have seen some energy restored to the plant, but workers discovered highly radioactive pools of water in numerous areas of the plant. Two workers have been treated for radiation contamination after being splashed with the water.

Nishiyama also said that cooling the reactors had taken precedence over leakage but the removal of contaminated water from the reactors is “the most urgent task now”.

According to the Kyodo News, water in one of the containment areas is just 10cm below a ground-level hole, however Japanese authorities say that the water levels in the containment trenches is stable and has not overflowed into the sea.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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