Power lines up in progress at Japan nuclear plant
(AP) - Workers at a leaking nuclear planthooked up power lines to all six of the crippled complex's reactorunits Tuesday, but other repercussions from the massive earthquakeand tsunami were still rippling across the nation as economiclosses mounted at three of Japan's flagship companies. The progress on the electrical lines at the Fukushima Dai-ichinuclear power plant was a welcome and significant advance afterdays of setbacks. With the power lines connected, officials hope tostart up the overheated plant's crucial cooling system that wasknocked out during the March 11 tsunami and earthquake thatdevastated Japan's northeast coast. Tokyo Electric Power Co. warned that workers still need to checkall equipment for damage first before switching the cooling systemon to all the reactor units - a process that could take days oreven weeks. Late Tuesday night, Tokyo Electric said lights went on in thecentral control room of Unit 3, but that doesn't mean power hadbeen restored to the cooling system. Officials will wait untilsometime Wednesday to try to power up the water pumps to the unit. Emergency crews also dumped 18 tons of seawater into a nearlyboiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel, cooling it to 105degrees Fahrenheit, Japan's nuclear safetyagency said. Steam, possibly carrying radioactive elements, hadbeen rising for two days from the reactor building, and the movelessens the chances that more radiation will seep into the air. Added up, the power lines and concerted dousing bringauthorities closer to ending a nuclear crisis that has complicatedthe government's response to the catastrophic earthquake andtsunami that killed an estimated 18,000 people. Its power supply knocked out by the disasters, the Fukushimacomplex has leaked radiation that has found its way intovegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater. EarlyWednesday, the government added broccoli to the list of taintedvegetables, which also include spinach, canola, and chrysanthemumgreens. Government officials and health experts say the doses arelow and not a threat to human health unless the tainted productsare consumed in abnormally excessive quantities. The Health Ministry ordered officials in the area of thestricken plant to increase monitoring of seawater and seafood afterelevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium were found inocean water near the complex. Education Ministry official ShigeharuKato said a research vessel had been dispatched to collect andanalyze samples. The crisis was continuing to batter Japan's once-robust economy. Three of the country's biggest brands - Toyota Motor Corp.,Honda Motor Co. and Sony Corp. - put off a return to normalproduction due to shortages of parts and raw materials because ofearthquake damage to factories in affected areas. Toyota and Honda said they would extend a shutdown of autoproduction in Japan that already is in its second week, while Sonysaid it was suspending some manufacturing of popular consumerelectronics such as digital cameras and TVs. The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodiescollected so far stood at 9,099, while 13,786 people have beenlisted as missing. "We must overcome this crisis that we have never experienced inthe past, and it's time to make a nationwide effort," ChiefCabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, the government's public point-man,said Tuesday in his latest attempt to try to soothe publicanxieties.
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