IAEA experts are discussing ways to help Japan meet targets laid out in a blueprint for ending the crisis that TEPCO released over the weekend. Its plans call for achieving a cold shutdown of the plant within nine months. But government officials acknowledge that setbacks could slow the timeline.
In the meantime, TEPCO is continuing to spray water into the reactors and their spent fuel storage pools to help prevent them from overheating and releasing still more radiation.
TEPCO plans to use technology developed by French nuclear engineering giant Areva to reduce radioactivity and remove salt from the contaminated water inside the plant so that it can be reused to cool the reactors, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
This process would take "several months," he said.
TEPCO said Wednesday it has begun distributing applications for compensation to residents forced to evacuate from their homes around the plant. The company is offering about $12,000 per household as interim compensation.
People elsewhere in the disaster zone who lost homes and suffered from other damage say help has been slow to materialize.
Meanwhile, trade figures showed Japan's exports fell for the first time in 16 months in March, hit by the fallout from the disasters, which destroyed factories and damaged ports.
Auto exports especially took a beating, falling by 28 percent, as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. were forced to suspend Japanese production due to shortages of components.
Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge in Fukushima and Malcolm Foster and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.