Posted: 19 Mar 2011 06:21 PM PDT
Posted: 19 Mar 2011 04:50 PM PDT
TOKYO,— Japan saw some success in its race to avert disaster at a tsunami-damaged power plant, though minor radiation leaks underlined perils from the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago.
Three hundred engineers have been battling inside a danger zone to salvage the six-reactor Fukushima plant since it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami that also killed 7,653 people and left 11,746 more missing in northeast Japan.
The unprecedented multiple crisis will cost the world's third-largest economy nearly US$200 billion (RM610 billion) and require Japan's biggest reconstruction push since post-World War II.
It has also set back nuclear power plans the world over.
Encouragingly for Japanese transfixed on work at the Fukushima complex, the most critical reactor — No. 3, which has highly toxic plutonium — stabilised after fire trucks doused it for hours with hundreds of tonnes of water.
Work also advanced on bringing power back to water pumps used to cool overheating nuclear fuel.
"We are making progress . . . (but) we shouldn't be too optimistic," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy-general at Japan's Nuclear Safety Agency.
Technicians attached a power cable to the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, hoping to restore electricity later in the day before an attempt to switch the pumps on.
They aim to reach No. 3 and 4 soon after that.
If successful, that could be a turning point in a crisis classed as bad as America's 1979 Three Mile Island accident.
If not, drastic measures may be required such as burying the plant in sand and concrete, as happened at Chernobyl after the world's worst nuclear reactor disaster in 1986. — Reuters
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