Developments in Japan's quake, nuclear crisis

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2011 12:22 PM
Developments in Japan's quake, nuclear crisis

_ TEAMS RACE TO COOL OVERHEATED NUCLEAR FUEL. Firefighters begin pumping tons of water directly from the ocean into one of the most troubled areas of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, the cooling pool for used fuel rods at the Unit 3 reactor. The rods are at risk of burning up and sending radioactive material into the environment. Emergency workers also are funneling water into the most troubled reactors _ Units 1, 2 and 3, officials say.

_ POWER LINES PARTIALLY RECONNECTED TO NUCLEAR PLANT. Operators say some of the plant's six reactors are being reconnected to a power grid, but it is still unclear if their cooling systems will work. Workers are checking badly damaged and deeply complex electrical systems before the electricity is turned on to avoid setting off a spark and possible explosion.

_ OFFICIAL: FAULTY PLANNING CONTRIBUTED TO CRISIS. Backup power systems at the nuclear plant were improperly protected, leaving them vulnerable to the tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11, says Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. A spokesman for the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., says the complex was designed to withstand a tsunami of up to 5 meters (16 feet). Media reports say the tsunami was at least 6 meters (20 feet) high near the plant.

_ RADIATION FOUND IN WATER, FOOD. Radiation levels in spinach and milk from farms near the nuclear complex exceeds safety limits, government spokesman Yukio Edano says. He says they "pose no immediate health risk" but if contamination is found in other foods, agricultural shipments will be halted from the area. Radioactive iodine briefly exceeds government safety limits on Thursday in drinking water in Fukushima prefecture, and tiny amounts are found in tap water in Tokyo and five other prefectures.

_ U.S. FDA TO CHECK JAPANESE FOOD. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will monitor food imported from Japan for radiation exposure. The most common imports are seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables.

_ HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS HOMELESS. Police say more than 452,000 people made homeless by the quake and tsunami are staying in schools and other shelters, as supplies of fuel, medicine and other necessities run short. The twin disasters have left thousands dead and missing.

_ AUTOMAKERS FEEL WORSENING EFFECTS. Most of Japan's auto industry remains shut down, while factories from Louisiana to Thailand are low on Japanese-made parts. The idled plants are costing companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

_ REPORT: JAPAN CREATING MASSIVE RECOVERY PLAN. Japan's government is creating a lending plan worth up to 10 trillion yen ($122 billion) to help companies recover, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper reports. The government has yet to give an estimate of recovery costs. Goldman Sachs this week estimated quake damage at $200 billion. On Friday, the Group of Seven major industrialized nations agreed to support Japan in currency markets after the yen surged against the dollar to an all-time high, threatening Japanese exports.