FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Workers at a leaking nuclear complex hooked up power lines to all six of its reactor units, but other repercussions from a massive earthquake and tsunami still rippled across Japan as economic losses mounted at three flagship companies.
The progress on the electrical lines at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was a welcome and significant advance Tuesday after days of setbacks. With the power lines connected, officials hope to start up the overheated plant's crucial cooling system that was knocked out during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast coast.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. warned that workers still need to check all equipment for damage first before switching the cooling system on to all the reactor units — a process that could take days or even weeks.
Late Tuesday night, Tokyo Electric said lights went on in the central control room of Unit 3, but that doesn't mean power had been restored to the cooling system. Officials planned to try to power up the unit's water pumps later Wednesday.
Emergency crews also dumped 18 tons of seawater into a nearly boiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel at Unit 2, cooling it to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Japan's nuclear safety agency said. Steam, possibly carrying radioactive elements, had been rising for two days from the reactor building, and the move lessens the chances that more radiation will seep into the air.
Added up, the power lines and concerted dousing bring authorities closer to ending a nuclear crisis that has complicated the government's response to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 18,000 people.
Its power supply knocked out by the disasters, the Fukushima complex has leaked radiation that has found its way into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater. Early Wednesday, the government added broccoli to the list of tainted vegetables, which also include spinach, canola, and chrysanthemum greens. 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.