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Japan TEPCO workers enter reactor building

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) May 18, 2011
Workers briefly entered a reactor building at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant Wednesday to measure radiation levels and check for damage, the operator said.

The investigation was part of work by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to bring reactors at the complex to a stable cold shutdown by January at the latest.

Four employees in protective suits and with oxygen tanks on their backs entered the building housing reactor two and left 14 minutes later, TEPCO said.

It was the first time anyone had gone in the reactor two building since an explosion on March 15.

A pair of remote-controlled robots entered in April but high humidity clouded their lenses and prevented them from measuring radiation.

Earlier this month two workers entered another reactor building at the plant to gauge radiation levels.

There have been signs that damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was worse than initially thought following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which left nearly 25,000 people dead or missing.

Cooling systems were disabled, leading reactors to overheat and triggering the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

Some radioactive runoff has leaked from dousing operations to cool the reactors and low-level contaminated water has had to be dumped into the sea.

Representatives of 620 fishermen along the coast of Ibaraki prefecture, south of Fukushima, visited TEPCO's head office in Tokyo on Wednesday, demanding the utility pay damages as they were forced to halt fishing.

They are claiming a total of 425 million yen ($5.2 million) for loss of earnings in March, according to Isao Ono, one of the representatives.

Ibaraki fishermen were forced to stop catching a small fish known as konago, or sand lance, as the nuclear crisis took hold.

Some fishing has since been resumed partially but "fish is not selling and prices have fallen due to rumours" of radiation contamination, Ono said, adding they would seek more compensation for sales losses from the radiation scare.

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Japan disaster not similar to Chernobyl: officials
Geneva (AFP) May 17, 2011
The potential health consequences of the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant are not equal to those caused by the disaster at Chernobyl, Japanese health officials said Tuesday The levels of radioactive materials Cesium 134 and 137 are "much less than those of the accident at Chernobyl," said Makoto Akashi of Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences. Akashi made ... read more

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