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August 14, 2022

Japan on ‘maximum’ nuclear alert

Plutonium detected in soil at the Fukushima plant. PM Naoto Kan said the situation remained “unpredictable”.

Tokyo – Japanese Prime Mi­nis­ter Naoto Kan has said on Tues­day his government is in a state of maximum alert over the crip­pled Fukushima nuclear plant., the BBC informs. Pluto­nium has been detected in soil at the facility and highly radioactive water has leaked from a reactor building. Officials say the priority remains injecting water to cool the fuel rods. Kan told parliament the situation at the quake-hit plant “continues to be unpredictable”. The government “will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert”, he said, adding that he was seeking advice on whether to extend the evacuation zone around the plant.

Meanwhile National Strategy Minister Koichiro Gemba said the government could consider temporarily nationalising Tepco, the company running the plant. On Monday shares in the company dropped to their lowest level in three decades. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, in another press briefing, described the situation at Fukushima as “very grave”.

Workers are battling to restore power and restart the cooling systems at the stricken nuclear plant, which was hit by a powerful quake and subsequent tsunami over two weeks ago. The twin disasters are now known to have killed 10,901 people, with more than 17,000 people still missing across a swathe of northern Japan.

On Monday highly radioactive water was found for the first time outside one of the reactor buildings at Fukushima plant. The leak in a tunnel linked to the No 2 reactor has raised fears of radioactive liquid seeping into the environment. Plutonium – used in the fuel mix for one of the six reactors – has also been found in soil at the plant, but not at levels that threaten human health, officials say.

Journalists say the government has been accused of indecision and delay in tackling the crisis.
Officials in China, South Korea and the United States say they have recorded traces of radioactive material in the air. The US Environmental Protection Agency said it had detected traces of radiation in rain water in the north-east of the country.

It said these were consistent with the Fukushima nuclear accident and also said they did not constitute a health hazard.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan during a solidarity visit to the crisis-hit nation on Thursday following a scheduled trip to China, his office said.

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