Japan appeared resigned yesterday to a long fight to contain the world’s worst atomic crisis in 25 years after high radiation levels complicated work at its crippled nuclear plant.
Engineers have been battling to control the six-reactor Fukushima complex since it was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across Japan’s devastated northeast.
Radiation at the plant has soared in recent days: Latest readings at the weekend showed contamination 100,000 times higher than normal in water at reactor No. 2 and 1,850 times higher than normal in the nearby sea. Those were the most alarming levels yet, experts said.
“It’s very worrying ... there is something seriously wrong (at No. 2),” said Rianne Teule, a nuclear expert for environmental group Greenpeace based in South Africa.
Under-pressure plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. conceded what experts have long been saying: that Japan now faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and prevent a meltdown.
“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over),” TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.
Japan says radiation reading was wrong
The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said yesterday a very high radiation reading that had sent workers fleeing the No. 2 reactor was erroneous.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto apologized for the error, which added to alarm inside and outside Japan over the impact of contamination from the complex which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Radiation in the water was a still worrying 100,000 times higher than normal, rather than 10 million times higher as originally stated, Muto said.
“I am very sorry ... I would like to make sure that such a mistake will not happen again.”