Workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hooked up power lines to all six of the crippled complex's reactor units Tuesday — a welcome and significant advance. Officials hope to start up the overheated plant's crucial cooling system that was knocked out during the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan's northeast coast. Emergency crews also dumped 18 tons of seawater into a nearly boiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel, cooling it to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the nuclear safety agency said.
Early today, the government added broccoli to the list of vegetables tainted by radiation leaked from the Fukushima complex. Already tainted were spinach, canola, and chrysanthemum greens. Government officials and health experts say the doses are low and not a threat to human health unless the tainted products are consumed in abnormally excessive quantities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will halt imports of dairy products and produce from areas near the nuclear reactors. Other foods imported from Japan, including seafood, still will be sold to the public but screened first for radiation. Japanese foods make up less than 4 percent of all U.S. imports, and the FDA said it expects no risk to the U.S. food supply from radiation.
Three of the country's biggest brands — Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Sony Corp. — put off a return to normal production due to shortages of parts and raw materials because of earthquake damage to factories. Toyota and Honda said they would extend a shutdown of auto production in Japan that is in its second week, while Sony said it was suspending some manufacturing of consumer electronics such as digital cameras and TVs.
Mood of nation
"We must overcome this crisis that we have never experienced in the past, and it's time to make a nationwide effort," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, the government's point-man, said in his latest attempt to try to soothe public anxieties. Still, tensions were running high in the Fukushima area. Public sentiment is such that Fukushima's governor rejected a request from the president of Tokyo Electric Co., which operates the nuclear complex, to apologize for the troubles.
The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodies collected so far stood at 9,099, while 13,786 people have been listed as missing. In the 11 days since the disasters the number of people staying in shelters has halved to 268,510, presumably as many move in with relatives.