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Japan reactors' power lines connected

Tokyo Electric says power lines at its quake-damaged nuclear plant at Fukushima have been hooked up to all six reactors, but more work is needed before electricity can be turned on to help cool the units.

Lights on in No. 3 control room, cooling could resume Wednesday

The central control room of Unit 3 is pictured after the lights went on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Tuesday. (Kyodo News/Tokyo Electric Power Co./Associated Press)

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  • No further damage from magnitude 6.0 quake
  • Lighting restored to No. 3 reactor's control room

Tokyo Electric Power Co. says power lines at its quake-damaged nuclear plant at Fukushima in northern Japan have been hooked up to all six reactors — though more work is needed before electricity can be turned on to help cool the units.

Reconnecting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex to the electrical grid is believed to be a significant step in getting control of the overheated reactors and storage pools of spent fuels and in reducing the amount of radiation that can leak out, affecting food and water.

Tokyo Electric said it restored the electricity supply for the control room of the No. 3 reactor, and lights in the control room were switched on again Tuesday night, which should make it easier to conduct repairs.

The company said it would next try to reactivate monitoring systems in the control rooms, and that it aimed to transmit electricity to the cooling pump for the No. 3 reactor on Wednesday.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said emergency crews had dumped 18 tonnes of seawater into an almost-boiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel, cooling it to 50 C. Steam, possibly carrying radioactive elements, had been rising for two days from the reactor building, so this cooling could reduce the amount of radiation escaping.

A moderately strong earthquake struck the Fukushima prefecture soon after daybreak Wednesday, Japanese authorities said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

No tsunami alert was issued after the magnitude 6.0 quake, Japan's meteorological agency said. Tokyo Electric said it has received no reports of damage due to the most recent quake.

Radiation has found its way into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater across a band of Japan. The resulting fears of radiation mean the impact of the disasters has reverberated well beyond the disaster area and the families of the hundreds of thousands of displaced and of the estimated 18,000 dead.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced late Tuesday it is banning imports of dairy products and produce from the area of the country affected by radiation.

The agency had previously said it would increase the screening of those foods.

Sales of other types of food from Japan, including seafood, have not been banned. They will continue to be screened before being sold to the public.

Workers spray water into the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on Tuesday. ((Tokyo Electric Power Co./Reuters))

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that its monitoring stations have detected radiation 1,600 times higher than normal levels in an area about 20 kilometres from the power station, the limit of the evacuation area declared by Japan's government last week.

Radiation at that level, while not high for a single burst, could harm health if sustained. If projected to last three days, those levels would prompt U.S. authorities to order an evacuation as a precaution. 

The levels drop dramatically farther from the nuclear complex. In Tokyo, about 220 kilometres south of the plant, radiation levels have been higher than normal for the city, but still only a third of the global average for naturally occurring background radiation.

Automakers stay shut down

Three of Japan's marquee companies — Sony Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. — announced temporary halts or extensions of shutdowns  of production at plants in Japan. The reason is a shortage of parts owing to quake-damaged factories.

In the town of Kawamata, just outside the city of Fukushima, hundreds of people moved from their homes near the nuclear plant 80 kilometres away and crowded into an elementary school gymnasium to hear about the effects of radiation on health from a doctor from Nagasaki, the city destroyed by an atomic bomb to end the Second World War.

"I want to tell you that you are safe," Noboru Takamura told them. "You don't need to worry. The levels of radiation here are clearly not high enough to cause damage to your health. Outside the 30-kilometre zone, there is no need to hang your laundry indoors or wear surgical masks — unless you have hay fever."

Virtually everyone in the hall was wearing a mask.

Numbers in shelter halved

While many schools, gymnasiums and other community buildings remain packed with displaced people, in the 11 days since the disasters the numbers of displaced people staying in shelters has halved to 268,510, presumably as many move in with relatives.

In the first five days after the disasters struck, the Fukushima nuclear power complex saw explosions and fires in four of the plant's six reactors, and the leaking of radioactive steam into the air. Since then, progress continued intermittently as efforts to splash seawater on the reactors and rewire the complex were disrupted by rises in radiation, elevated pressure in reactors and overheated storage pools.

The number of dead so far is 9,301, police said Wednesday. Another 13,786 people are missing.

With files from The Associated Press

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