Tokyo: In order to restore the damaged cooling system at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear plants, engineers on Saturday inched closer to connect power at the reactor. Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns and runs the plants, has stepped up efforts to bring electricity back to its crippled nuclear reactors to cool down the overheating spent fuel.

The firefighters said they were increasing the spraying of water at the plant in a desperate attempt to avert a meltdown.

Connecting a power line to the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is expected to be completed, said a Japanese news agency.

Engineers have connected a power cable to the outside of the plant. Further cabling is under way inside to try to restart water pumps in four of the six reactors.

"We are scheduled to restore electricity at number 1 and 2 reactors," an official of the nuclear safety agency said.

"Reactors number 5 and 6 also will be powered on Saturday. They are scheduled to restore power to number 3 and 4 on Sunday," an official was quoted as saying.

Restoring a stable source of electricity is a key step to prevent further deterioration of the situation by cooling down the reactor cores or water in the spent fuel tanks.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told a press conference that an examination showed the surface temperatures at the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at 100 C or lower and that their conditions remain stable than expected.

"We are trying to get things under control, but we are still in an unpredictable situation," he was quoted as saying by the Japanese news agency.

Tonnes of water have been used to douse overheating fuel rods in what the chief of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has described as "a race against time" to prevent a major disaster.

According to the Tokyo Fire Department, the dose that workers were exposed to so far was not "at a level that would affect health."

The government has set an exclusion zone of 20-kilometer radius of the damaged plant, asking people within 20 to 30 km to stay indoors.

The No. 5 and No. 6 reactors were under maintenance at the time of the quake. It is now possible for these reactors to cool spent fuel by circulating water in the storage pools, the report said.

Radiation affecting food

However, Japanese government's top spokesman on Saturday said the radiation levels have started affecting food stuffs like spinach and milk.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that tainted milk and spinach were found in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, respectively. Further he urged the public to remain calm.
He said that on average, the dose of radiation a person absorbs after a year's consumption of the contaminated milk is equivalent of taking one CT scan in hospital.

This was the first case of food contamination by radiation since the March 11 quake followed by a disastrous tsunami.

Quake hits Japan again

Meanwhile, a strong 6.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday rattled Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture south of the stricken Fukushima No 1 nuclear plant, but no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake shook buildings in Tokyo, but no damage was immediately reported. However, flights at the capital's Narita Airport were temporarily suspended for safety checks.
Japan can follow Moscow steps

While the scope of Japan’s catastrophe is not likely to reach the levels of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster under the Soviet Union, Russian experts said that Japan could minimize the damage by using its experience like seeding clouds and re-cultivating agricultural land.

"The experience of Chernobyl should be used," said Alexey Yablokov, a radiobiology expert and former environmental advisor to Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin.

Consequences for Moscow and other large industrial cities in central Russia could have been much more serious if the Soviet government had not carried out cloud-seeding, the process of artificially altering clouds to change the weather.

"It was a secret programme, and ethically it is questionable -Moscow was saved from radioactive rains at the expense of smaller cities," said Yablokov.

Clouds on the way to the capital were seeded with various chemicals and fell on the outlying regions of Tula, Ryazan and Kaluga instead.

No harm to human health

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert has said that radiation levels detected in Japan do not pose any harm to human health.

"Regular dose information is now being received from 47 Japanese cities," Graham Andrew, scientific and technical advisor to the head of the IAEA, said.

"Dose rates in Tokyo and other cities remain far from levels which would require action. In other words they are not dangerous to human health," he said.

The agency has just sent a radiation monitoring team to Japan to help authorities determine whether any dangerous radiation has been released from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

The team would now move to the Fukushima region "as soon as possible" to continue monitoring there.

The IAEA said important data about radiation levels by a fellow UN agency that monitors for clandestine nuclear tests appeared to back up its assessment that current radiation readings posed no threat to human health.

(JPN/Agencies)