Japan sees some stabilization in nuclear crisis

One of Japan’s six tsunami-crippled nuclear reactors appeared to stabilize on Saturday but the country suffered another blow after discovering traces of radiation in food and water from near the stricken power plant.

Fire trucks sprayed water for nearly half a day on reactor No.3, the government said, cooling overheating nuclear fuel rods considered the most dangerous in the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi complex because of their use of highly toxic plutonium.

"The situation there is stabilizing somewhat," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

But traces of radiation exceeding government limits were found in milk from a farm about 30 km (18 miles) from the plant in Fukushima prefecture and spinach grown in neighboring Ibaraki prefecture, he said.

Tiny levels of radioactive iodine were also found in tap water in Tokyo, one of the world’s largest cities about 240 km (150 miles) south, where many tourists and expatriates have already left and where many residents are staying indoors.

The sample contained 1.5 becquerals per kg of iodine 131, well below the tolerable limit for food and drink of 300 becquerals per kg, the government said.

Edano said higher radiation levels still posed no risks. But the International Atomic Energy Agency said radioactive iodine in food can cause short-term health problems.

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Meltdown Threat Grows – 45,000 Evacuated

Japanese officials are issuing broad evacuation orders for people living near two nuclear power plants whose cooling systems have collapsed as a result of the earthquake, The New York Times reported.

Small amounts of radioactive material are now likely to lead from the plants.

The two plants, known as Daiichi and Daini experienced critical failures of the backup generators needed to power cooling systems after the plants were shut down, as they were during the quake.

An estimated 45,000 people are now being evacuated from around the Daiichi plant, where those living within a six-mile radius were told to leave. The evacuation of the second plant was for a one-mile radius because “there is no sign that radiation has been emitted outside,” an official said.

The cooling system failure allowed pressure to build up beyond the design capacity of the reactors. Radioactive vapor was expected to be released into the atmosphere to prevent damage to the containment systems, safety officials said. But officials say that the levels of radiation were not large enough to threaten the health of people outside the plants, and that the evacuations had been ordered merely as a precaution.

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