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The World

March 19, 2011

Japan cites radiation in milk, spinach near plant

(Continued)

FUKUSHIMA, Japan —

Just outside the bustling disaster response center in the city of Fukushima, 40 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of the plant, government nuclear specialist Kazuya Konno was able to take only a three-minute break for his first meeting since the quake with his wife, Junko, and their children.

"It's very nerve-racking. We really don't know what is going to become of our city," said Junko Konno, 35. "Like most other people, we have been staying indoors unless we have to go out."

She brought her husband a small backpack with a change of clothes and snacks. The girls — aged 4 and 6 and wearing pink surgical masks decorated with Mickey Mouse — gave their father hugs.

Low levels of radiation have been detected well beyond Tokyo, which is 140 miles (220 kilometers) south of the plant, but hazardous levels have been limited to the plant itself.

Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant began overheating and leaking radiation into the atmosphere in the days after the March 11 quake and the subsequent tsunami overwhelmed its cooling systems. The government admitted it was slow to respond to the nuclear troubles, which added another crisis on top of natural disasters, which officials estimate killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 400,000 others.

The complex is deeply troubled, Edano said Saturday, but it's not getting worse.

"The situation at the nuclear complex still remains unpredictable. But at least we are preventing things from deteriorating," he said.

A fire truck with a high-pressure cannon was parked outside the plant's Unit 3, about 300 meters (yards) from the Pacific coast, and began shooting a stream of water nonstop into the pool for seven straight hours, said Kenji Kawasaki, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency.

A separate pumping vehicle will keep the fire truck's water tank refilled. Because of high radiation levels, firefighters will only go to the truck every three hours when it needs to be refueled. They expect to pump about 1,400 tons of water, nearly the capacity of the pool.

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