Death toll at 10,000
Another month to stabilise nuclear plant
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.