Troubled Japan nuclear plant gets some power
Two of six reactors at the stricken nuclear plant in northeastern Japan have been brought under control, the plant's operator said Sunday, as radiation appeared to spread further into the food chain.
Radiation from reactors disabled by the earthquake and tsunami 10 days ago has been discovered in canola and chrysanthemum greens, health officials said.
They joined spinach and milk on the short list of foods discovered so far to have radiation levels above government safety limits. Tap water as far away as Tokyo has also been tainted, and Taiwan says it detected radiation in fava beans imported from Japan.
People in Fukushima prefecture where the nuclear plant is located were told Sunday not to drink the tap water, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano insisted again that there was no immediate health risk from the tainted food.
"If you eat it once, or twice, or even for several days, it's not just that it's not an immediate threat to health, it's that even in the future it is not a risk," Edano said.
Official death toll rises to 8,649
Radiation has been leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, and the tsunami it triggered, knocked out cooling systems on March 11 and wiped some towns in the region almost off the map.
Police officials estimate that the toll from the earthquake and tsunami will exceed 18,000 deaths.
One of the of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimates its deaths alone will top 15,000, police spokesman Hitoshi Sugawara said. Police in other devastated areas declined to estimate eventual tolls, but said the confirmed deaths in their areas already number nearly 3,400.
The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodies collected so far stood at 8,649, while 12,877 people have been listed as missing. It is possible those two lists have overlap, and that some unidentified bodies in the tally of deaths may match names on the missing list once their identities are confirmed.
An eventual death toll also is complicated by the fact that the tsunami likely swept many bodies out to sea, as it did in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when many of the dead were never found. Also, some missing people may have been out of the region at the time of the disasters but have not yet contacted relatives or authorities.
In addition to Miyagi's estimate of more than 15,000 dead, police confirmed nearly 3,400 deaths in Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Aomori and Chiba provinces, as well as seven dead in Tokyo.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. had some good news Sunday, reporting that Units 5 and 6 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex were under control. The company, which finished laying an electrical line into the complex on Saturday, said power is now restored to one unit and the remaining units may be connected early in the week.
Earlier in the day, the company tried a dangerous operation to vent radioactive gases from the structure around the Unit 3 reactor, the most troubled at the plant, but abandoned it when the pressure stopped climbing.
"It has stabilized," Tokyo Electric manager Hikaru Kuroda told reporters.
Even if power is restored, the nuclear complex has no future, Edano, the government spokesman, told reporters.
"It is obviously clear that Fukushima Daiichi in no way will be in a condition to be restarted," he said.