Japan's nuclear accident 'beyond belief'

Japan's nuclear experts admitted today that the Fukushima reactor disaster was worse than anything they ever imagined could have happened.

"We have experienced a very huge disaster that has caused very large damage at a nuclear power generation plant on a scale that we had not expected," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy head of the country's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.



And another official with the agency admitted: "There is nothing else we can do but keep doing what we've been doing."



Engineers are struggling to restore electricity to the plant, but getting the power flowing will not be the end of their battle.



With its mangled machinery and partly melted reactor cores, bringing the complex under control is a monstrous job.



Restoring the power to all six units at the tsunami-damaged complex is key, because it will, in theory, power up the maze of motors, valves and switches that help deliver cooling water to the overheated reactor cores and spent fuel pools that are leaking radiation.



Ideally, officials believe it should only take a day to get the complex under control once the cooling system is up and running. In reality, the effort to end the crisis is likely to take weeks.



Conditions at the plant have remained volatile since the earthquake and tsunami wrecked it. Today a plume of smoke rose from two reactor units prompting workers to evacuate.



In another setback, the plant's operator said it had just discovered that some of the cooling system's key pumps at the complex's troubled Unit 2 no longer worked - meaning replacements have to be brought in.



Tokyo Electric Power Company said it had placed emergency orders for new pumps, but how long it would take for them to arrive was unclear.



If officials can get the power turned on, get the replacement pumps working and get enough seawater into the reactors and spent fuel pools, it would only take a day to bring the temperatures back to a safe, cooling stage, officials predicted



The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that Units 1, 2 and 3 have all seen damage to their reactor cores, but that containment is intact, relieving concerns about Unit 2, where an explosion damaged a pressure-reducing chamber around the bottom of the reactor core.



Today's evacuation of workers from the plant came after smoke began rising from the spent fuel storage pool of the plant's problem-plagued Unit 3, which also alarmed plant officials over the weekend with a sudden surge of pressure in its reactor core.



What caused the smoke to billow first from Unit 3 and then from Unit 2 is still under investigation, nuclear safety agency officials said.



Problems set off by the disasters have ranged far beyond the shattered northeast coast and the wrecked nuclear plant, handing the government what it has called Japan's worst crisis since the Second World War. Rebuilding may cost as much as 235 billion dollars and the death toll will exceed 18,000.



Traces of radiation are contaminating vegetables and some water supplies, although in amounts the government says do not pose a risk to human health in the short term.



Sale of raw milk, spinach and canola from prefectures over a swathe from the plant toward Tokyo ahve been banned. The government has just started to test fish and shellfish.



"Please do not overreact, and act calmly," Chief Cabinet spokesman Yukio Edano said in the government's latest appeal to ease public concerns. "Even if you eat contaminated vegetables several times, it will not harm your health at all."



The World Health Organization said Japan will have to do more to reassure the public about food safety.



"Walking outside for a day and eating food repeatedly are two different things. This is why they're going to have to take some decisions quickly in Japan to shut down and stop food being used completely from zones which they feel might be affected," a spokesman said.



The troubles at Fukushima have in some ways overshadowed the natural catastrophe, threatening a wider disaster if the plant spews more concentrated forms of radiation than it has so far.



The World Bank said that Japan may need five years to rebuild from the disasters, and the cost to private insurers will be up to 33 billion dollars.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?