Death toll at 10,000

An­other month to sta­bilise nu­clear plant

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

THE death toll from Ja­pan’s worst post-war disas­ter topped 10,000 last night as the op­er­a­tor of a ra­di­a­tion­belch­ing nu­clear plant warned that work to sta­bilise it may take an­other month.

Two weeks af­ter a gi­ant quake struck and sent a mas­sive tsunami crash­ing into the coun­try’s Pa­cific coast, Ja­pan held out lit­tle hope of find­ing alive an­other 17,500 listed as miss­ing.

The fo­cus of Ja­pan’s fears is still the Fukushima nu­clear plant north-east of Tokyo, which is emit­ting ra­dioac­tive vapour that has made the Ja­panese cap­i­tal’s drink­ing wa­ter un­safe for in­fants and sparked a global food scare.

A day af­ter two work­ers at the plant were hos­pi­talised with ra­di­a­tion burns, its op­er­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Power Co, suf­fered an­other set­back with pos­si­ble dam­age to re­ac­tor three.

South Korea and the EU joined the United States, Rus­sia and sev­eral other coun­tries in re­strict­ing food im­ports from Ja­pan, which it­self has or­dered a stop to veg­etable and dairy ship­ments from the re­gion near the atomic plant.

Higher ra­dioac­tiv­ity has also been de­tected in the ocean near the Fukushima plant on Ja­pan’s Pa­cific coast, rais­ing pub­lic fears about the safety of fish and sea­weed, tra­di­tional sta­ples in the is­land nation’s diet.

‘‘ This ter­ri­fies me from the depth of my heart,’’ said Su­nao Tsuboi, a sur­vivor of the US atom bomb at­tack on Hiroshima in 1945 who is in his mid-80s.

‘‘ Ra­di­a­tion dam­ages genes and DNA. This is some­thing that no doc­tor can fix. There is no proper rem­edy for ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure.’’

At Tokyo’s usu­ally fran­tic Tsuk­iji f i sh mar­ket, t he world’s big­gest, de­mand has plum­meted.

One seafood ven­dor, who asked not to be named, ex­pressed fears that ‘‘ in one or two years, we could see a ( ra­di­a­tion) prob­lem with cer­tain va­ri­eties of fish’’.

Along the tsunami-rav­aged coast of north­ern Hon­shu is­land, mean­while, about 250,000 home­less peo­ple are brav­ing cold weather i n al­most 2000 shel­ters.

At the Fukushima plant, work­ers kept spray­ing sea wa­ter on to over­heat­ing re­ac­tors and fuel rod pools as a stop-gap mea­sure to pre­vent a l arger melt­down, while try­ing to re­build the orig­i­nal cool­ing sys­tems.

But the power com­pany ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day it may take an­other month to achieve a cold shut­down of all re­ac­tors – when tem­per­a­tures in­side fall be­low boil­ing point and cool­ing sys­tems are back at at­mo­spheric pres­sure.

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