Japan warned on Sunday it could take months to stop radiation leaking from a nuclear plant crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami three weeks ago, while voters said a coalition would better handle the crisis and post-quake recovery effort. An aide to embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government’s priority was to stop radiation leaks which were scaring the public and hindering work on cooling overheated nuclear fuel rods. “We have not escaped from a crisis situation, but it is somewhat stabilized,” said Goshi Hosono, a ruling party lawmaker and aide to Kan. “How long will it take to achieve (the goal of stopping the radiation leakage)? I think several months would be one target,” Hosono said on a nationwide Fuji TV programme on Sunday.
In the face of the prolonged crisis, nearly two-thirds of Japanese voters believe the ruling Democratic Party should join hands with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed, potentially warming lawmakers in both camps to the scheme. Kan last month invited Sadakazu Tanigaki, head of the LDP, to join the cabinet as deputy premier for disaster relief, but Tanigaki rejected the offer.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in the Fukushima Daiichi complex at the weekend, generating readings of 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside. The leaks did not stop after concrete was poured into the pit, and TEPCO turned to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any more contaminated water from flowing out. The latest effort to stop radioactive water entering the Pacific started on Sunday afternoon. “We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers but are yet to see a visible effect,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Officials believe the crack may be one source of the radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to control the six-reactor complex and sent radiation levels in the sea to 4,000 times the legal limit.
Nishiyama said three of the six reactors were now generally stable. TEPCO has said it will scrap at least four reactors once they are under control, but this could take years or even decades. Japan’s crisis has rocked the nuclear industry and the European Union said on Sunday it will affect the fight against climate change as energy policies are reviewed. Germany and Switzerland have said they will shut older reactors or suspend approvals, China has suspended approvals for new plants, and Taiwan is studying cutting nuclear output.Manufacturing in the world’s third largest economy has slumped to a two-year low as a result of power outages and quake damage hitting supply chains and production.
Excerpt from —By Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa, Japan says it may take months to end radiation leaks, Reuters, Apr 3,2011