Sunday, April 10, 2011

Japan set to extend nuclear evacuation zone

Japan plans to extend the evacuation zone around its crippled nuclear plant because of high radiation levels, local media reported Monday, with engineers no closer to regaining control of six reactors hit by a giant tsunami one month ago. Concern at Japan's inability contain its nuclear crisis, caused by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is mounting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's ruling party suffering embarrassing losses in local elections Sunday and neighboring China and South Korea voicing criticism. Engineers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo said Sunday they were no closer to restoring the plant's cooling system which is critical if overheated fuel rods are to be cooled and the six reactors brought under control. They are hoping to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean Monday, days later than planned.

Four weeks after the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl quarter of a century ago, the government was moving to extend a 20 km evacuation zone due to high levels of radiation, the Asahi newspaper reported. The government has so far refused to widen the zone, despite being urged to by the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries like the United States and Australia advising its citizens to stay 80 kms away from the plant.

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