Japan's Fukushima nuclear engineers are stalled by smoke at the reactor


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Efforts to restore power to the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan were stalled by smoke billowing from reactors yesterday.

A cable that could allow cooling systems to be restored was attached to reactor No.2 – one of six at the tsunami-hit facility.

But engineers had to evacuate as white smoke was seen coming from the unit, while grey smoke billowed from reactor No.3, which uses highly radioactive plutonium.

The smoke did not seem to be accompanied by a rise in radiation, said Robin Grimes, head of the centre for nuclear engineering at Imperial College London.

‘There is more than a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,’ he added.

Electrical teams hope to connect all six reactors today.

‘Once the reactors can be re-flooded, we can breathe a sigh of relief that phase one is finished,’ said Laurence Williams, professor of nuclear safety at John Tyndall Institute for Nuclear Research.

Japan has banned the sale of milk, spinach and canola from areas near Fukushima, while villagers within 30km (19 miles) of the plant have been told to avoid tap water after radioactive iodine was found.

As Japan fights to contain the crisis after the March 11 quake and tsunami, the International Atomic Energy Agency said stronger safety standards were necessary but will be hard to enforce.

‘It depends on member states’ intentions and I know views are very different,’ said boss Yukia Amano. ‘It is not like an accident happens, all will be better.’

Meanwhile, site operator Tokyo Electric Power Company said radiation levels of 126.7 times the allowed limit have been found in the Pacific Ocean near the plant.

‘It would have to be drunk for a whole year in order to accumulate one millisievert,’ a TEPCO official said, referring to the standard radiation measurement unit.

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