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Japan nuke plant work plods on as evacuees weary

 A rescue worker sifts through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsuna...
 An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa sifts through debris during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Ma...
 Japanese rescue workers prepare to sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ea...
 In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), gray smoke rises from Unit 3 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power pla...
 An elderly Japanese woman searches for her belongings in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-destroyed town of Rikuzentakata, northeastern Japan, Mon...
 Evacuees take a footbath installed at an evacuation center in Minamisanriku, northern Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, after the March 11 earthquake an...
 In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), gray smoke rises from Unit 3 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power pla...
 In this Sept. 2010 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., workers are seen at work at the central control room of reactor Unit 3 of Tokyo Electr...
 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel march by coffins during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyag...
 Family members place dirt over a coffin during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan...
 In this Sunday, March 20, 2011 photo, a classroom burned by a fire is seen in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-destroyed city of  Ishinomaki, nort...
 Family members cry as they pay their final respects during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefe...
 In this Sept. 2010 photo, Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers are seen at work at the central control room of reactor Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi n...
 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel prepare to lay a coffin during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City...

Japan Earthquake

A rescue worker sifts through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsuna...

Japan Earthquake

An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa sifts through debris during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Ma...

Japan Earthquake

Japanese rescue workers prepare to sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ea...

Japan Earthquake

In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), gray smoke rises from Unit 3 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power pla...

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

An elderly Japanese woman searches for her belongings in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-destroyed town of Rikuzentakata, northeastern Japan, Mon...

Japan Earthquake

Evacuees take a footbath installed at an evacuation center in Minamisanriku, northern Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, after the March 11 earthquake an...

Japan Earthquake

In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), gray smoke rises from Unit 3 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power pla...

Japan Earthquake

In this Sept. 2010 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., workers are seen at work at the central control room of reactor Unit 3 of Tokyo Electr...

Japan Earthquake

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel march by coffins during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyag...

Japan Earthquake

Family members place dirt over a coffin during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan...

Japan Earthquake

In this Sunday, March 20, 2011 photo, a classroom burned by a fire is seen in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-destroyed city of Ishinomaki, nort...

Japan Earthquake

Family members cry as they pay their final respects during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefe...

Japan Earthquake

In this Sept. 2010 photo, Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers are seen at work at the central control room of reactor Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi n...

Japan Earthquake

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel prepare to lay a coffin during a burial ceremony for the March 11 tsunami victims in Higashimatsushima City...

Weariness and anxiety percolated Tuesday among people who left their homes near Japan's radiation-shedding nuclear complex as the meticulous if urgent work to bring the overheated plant under control dragged on.
Workers, pulled from the complex Monday afternoon after smoke or steam billowed from buildings housing two damaged reactors, resumed their work Tuesday. Their goal is to finish hooking up electrical systems and check and replace damaged pumps and related machinery to power up cooling systems at plant, crippled by this month's massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
Electricity was restored to one of the least troublesome of Fukushima Dai-ichi's six nuclear reactors. Still a new concern emerged: a storage pool holding 2,000 tons of older, spent nuclear fuel is also heating up, forcing emergency teams to divert water sprayed on other reactors there.
People at Fukushima city's main evacuation center waited in long lines for bowls of hot noodle soup. A truck delivered toilet paper and blankets. Many among the 1,400 people living in the crowded gymnasium came from communities near the nuclear plant and worry about radiation and weary of the daily routine of the displaced.
"It was an act of God," said Yoshihiro Amano, a grocery store owner whose house is 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the reactors. "It won't help anything to get angry. But we are worried. We don't know if it will takes days, months or decades to go home. Maybe never. We are just starting to be able to think ahead to that."
Public sentiment is such that Fukushima's governor rejected a meeting offered by the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, the utility that runs the nuclear plant.
"What is most important is for TEPCO to end the crisis with maximum effort. So I rejected the offer," Gov. Yuhei Sato said on national broadcaster NHK. "Considering the anxiety, anger and exasperation being felt by people in Fukushima, there is just no way for me to accept their apology."
The nuclear crisis has added a broader dimension to the disaster unleashed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that pulverized the northeast coast, leaving more than 9,000 dead by official count and twice that in police estimates.
Fears about radiation are reaching well beyond those living near Fukushima and the 430,000 displaced by the earthquake and tsunami to encompass large segments of Japan. Traces of radiation are being found in vegetables and raw milk from a swath of farmland, forcing a government ban on sales from those areas.
Seawater near the Fukushima plant is showing elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium, prompting the government to test seafood.
China, Japan's largest trading partner, has ordered testing of imports of Japanese food. The World Health Organization has urged Japan to adopt stricter measures and reassure the public.
Government officials and health experts say the doses are low and not a threat to human health unless the tainted products are consumed in abnormally excessive quantities. But the government measures to release data on radiation amounts, halt sales of some foods and test others are feeding public worries that the situation may grow more dire.
"We acknowledge this situation has caused anxiety among the general public but even if the accident hadn't happened we would be monitoring and taking action if the government's very conservative standards are exceeded," the government's spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, said at a briefing.
In the first five days after the disasters struck, the Fukushima complex saw explosions and fires in four of the plant's six reactors, and the leaking of radioactive steam into the air. Since then, every day that passes without a major accident is a good sign, experts said.
An official of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in Washington that Units 1, 2 and 3 have all seen damage to their reactor cores, but that containment is intact. The commission's executive director, Bill Borchardt, said that "things appear to be on the verge of stabilizing."
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said that radiation seeping into the environment is a concern and needs to be monitored. "We are still in an accident that is still in a very serious situation," said Graham Andrew, senior adviser to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano.
IAEA monitoring stations have detected radiation 1,600 times higher than normal levels _ but in an area about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the power station, the limit of the evacuation area declared by the government last week.
Radiation at that level, while not high for a single burst, could harm health if sustained. If projected to last three days, radiation at those levels would U.S. authorities would order an evacuation as a precaution.
The levels drop dramatically the further you go from the nuclear complex. In Tokyo, about 140 miles (220 kilometers) south of the plant, levels in recent days have been higher than normal for the city but still only a third of the global average for naturally occurring background radiation.
___
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Jeff Donn, Shino Yuasa and Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo, and Matthew Daly in Rockville, Md., contributed to this story.


Updated : 2021-06-14 21:17 GMT+08:00