Japan in state of maximum nuclear alert

As uncertainty mounts in Japan, the Prime Minister has announced his government is in a state of maximum alert following growing radiation fears from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has confirmed his government is in a state of maximum alert, as the situation at the earthquake-hit nuclear plant remains unpredictable.

Workers are continuing to battle to restore power and restart the cooling systems at the stricken Fukushima plant, which was severely damaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunamiover two weeks ago.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano described the situation as very grave indeed adding: ‘We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage.’

National Strategy Minister Koichiro Gemba added that government is considering temporarily nationalising TEPCO, the company running the plant, and seeking advice on whether to extend the evacuation zone around Fukushima.

Yesterday, highly radioactive water was found outside one of the reactor buildings, raising fears that radioactive liquid was seeping out into the environment, while plutonium has been detected in soil surrounding the crippled plant.

Officials in China, South Korea and the United States have recorded traces of radioactive substances in the air, which are consistent with the Fukushima nuclear accident, but the US Environmental Protection Agency said these traces do not pose a health hazard.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has revealed extremely low-level doses of iodine-131 have been found in coastal areas but said the measures were so small that no action was necessary at this stage.

Water and food continues to be tested for radiation and bans on some imported foodstuffs remain in place.

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI: IN PICTURES

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