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Fukushima workers pulled from reactor after smoke rises

Japanese authorities confirm workers evacuated after smoke seen rising from Reactor 3 as efforts to cool the plant’s nuclear reactors continue.

A man is screened for radiation exposure from Fukushima at an evacuation centre yesterday.
A man is screened for radiation exposure from Fukushima at an evacuation centre yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/Wally Santana

WORKERS HAVE BEEN EVACUATED from the quake-struck Fukushima nuclear power plant after grey smoke was seen rising from the spent fuel storage pool of Reactor 3.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) spokesman Hiroshi Aizawa said the company is investigating the situation.

Reactor 3 is the only one of the plant’s six reactors to use highly toxic plutonium.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said earlier that good progress was being made in tackling the crisis at the Fukushima plant.

Energy has now been restored to all six reactors, according to Reuters, after power cables reconnected the two most badly damaged units, Reactors 3 and 4, to the grid today.

Japanese nuclear authorities and Fukushima workers are examining the plant for damage to cooling systems before they try to start them up again. The cooling pumps stopped working when power and back-up power was cut during the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March and authorities have been struggling to keep the reactors cool ever since.

Radiation fears

Although Japanese officials have stressed that radiation contamination detected in milk and spinach samples recently would not harm anyone even if eaten for several days, the World Health Organisation said that radiation in food is a “serious situation”, Reuters reports.

WHO spokesperson Peter Cordingley said: “It’s a lot more serious than anybody thought in the early days when we thought that this kind of problem can be limited to 20 to 30km… It’s safe to suppose that some contaminated produce got out of the contamination zone.”

Yesterday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that none of the contaminated food had entered the market. Further food testing is being carried out to monitor the situation.

The official death toll from Japan’s powerful earthquake and tsunami has risen to 8,450 as almost another 13,000 people remain missing. Police estimate that over 13,000 people have died in the disasters.

- Includes reporting from the AP

Read: Two survivors rescued nine days after Japan’s devastating earthquake >

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