International

Crisis In Japan: Sunday's Developments

The Japanese military works to clear roads in Ofunato, Japan on Sunday so that it can bring in more cranes and bulldozers to aid recovery operations. i i

The Japanese military works to clear roads in Ofunato, Japan on Sunday so that it can bring in more cranes and bulldozers to aid recovery operations. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
The Japanese military works to clear roads in Ofunato, Japan on Sunday so that it can bring in more cranes and bulldozers to aid recovery operations.

The Japanese military works to clear roads in Ofunato, Japan on Sunday so that it can bring in more cranes and bulldozers to aid recovery operations.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

It's just after 1 p.m. ET her in Washington, D.C., — or 2 a.m. in Tokyo — and we're going to wrap up our live blog for the day. We'll be back early on Monday morning with the latest updates from Mark Memmott.

Until then, check out the rest of NPR's Japan crisis coverage on our Japan news hub. Among the items you'll find there is a regularly updated gallery of photos from Japan.

The way things stand now, Japanese officials believe they are making progress with their efforts to stabilize the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's six reactors. The pressure inside of Unit No. 3 remains the biggest concern of the moment.

Outside of the plant, the death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami stands at 8,450. Beyond that, another 12,900 remain missing and 450,000 people have been displaced, with many living in shelters.

A developing thread in the Japan story is radioactive contamination of the food supply. The AP reports:

"Beyond the disaster area, uncertainty grew over the safety of food and water. The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo's tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium. Rain and dust are tainted too."

"In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate risk to health. Still, Taiwan seized a batch of fava beans from Japan found with faint and legal amounts of iodine and cesium."

Update at 12:57 p.m. ET: The already troubled government of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has had difficulty responding to the disasters visited upon the country since March 11, according to an interesting story in The Washington Post:

"When a subsequent triple catastrophe forced Japan's famously inert political machinery to function at full speed, the Kan administration, according to officials involved in the decision-making last week, moved too slowly to seize authority at a deteriorating nuclear plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. It also struggled early in the crisis to provide data to Washington about emerging radiation risks, creating a split between the allies even as their militaries cooperated on the ground."

Update at 12:24 p.m. ET: Six workers at the Fukushima plant have been exposed during emergency operations to radiation at levels beyond the legal limit. The Guardian Reports:

"The Kyodo news agency reported that Tepco said six staff members had been exposed to more than 100 milliSieverts of radiation, but had been assigned to other tasks and were continuing to work because they had not shown any abnormal signs since being exposed."

"The government earlier increased to 250 mSv the limit for those working in the emergency operation."

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET: Japanse Prime Minister Naoto Kan says the country will "rebuild from scratch" areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Bloomberg reports that the government wants private contractors to build more than 30,000 temporary houses in the next two months as the country sets its sights on replacing or repairing the 110,000 buildings, 1,500 roads, 48 bridges and 15 railways reported to have been destroyed or damaged.

Update at 10 a.m. ET: The AP has just crossed a scrap saying that two of the six units at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant are under control "after fuel storage pools cool."

Kyodo news identifies the stable reactors as No. 5 and No. 6:

"The reactors at the power plant, whose nuclear reactor buildings were crippled after being hit by the catastrophic quake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, went into cold shutdown following restoration of cooling functions late Saturday."

Update at 9:32 a.m. ET: Shoppers in Japan were scrutinizing food on the shelves in Tokyo stores Sunday. The AP says they were looking to see where the food was from after reports that trace amounts of radiation had been found in some spinach and milk:

"At a bustling Tokyo supermarket Sunday, wary shoppers avoided one particular bin of spinach."

"The produce came from Ibaraki prefecture in the northeast, where radiation was found in spinach grown up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Another bin of spinach labeled as being from Chiba prefecture, west of Tokyo was sold out."

The AP goes on to say, however, that the government does not believe the food poses a risk to public health:

"The government said the level of radiation detected on spinach and milk was minuscule and should be no threat to health. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said he had received no reports that would require special measures to be taken regarding tap water."

"The tainted milk was found 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the plant, a local official said. The spinach was collected from six farms between 60 miles (100 kilometers) and 75 miles (120kilometers) to the south of the reactors."

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET: The local police chief in Miyagi prefecture said he expects the death toll to exceed 15,000 in his district, according to a report in The Japan Times. While official figures show about 12,000 people still missing in the wake of the disaster, Asahi Shimbun reports that its figures show 19,000 people have not been located.

Update at 8 a.m. ET: The AP reports that the current death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami stands at 8,100. There are 12,000 people still missing and 452,000 have been displaced.

Amidst the devastation, however, NHK reports that police rescued an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson from beneath the rubble of Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture on Sunday, nine days after the quake.

Eighty-year-old Sumi Abe is wrapped in a blanket after being rescued from the wreckage of her home in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday. Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were in the kitchen when the quake struck on March 11. i i

Eighty-year-old Sumi Abe is wrapped in a blanket after being rescued from the wreckage of her home in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday. Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were in the kitchen when the quake struck on March 11. Kahoku Shimpo/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kahoku Shimpo/AFP/Getty Images
Eighty-year-old Sumi Abe is wrapped in a blanket after being rescued from the wreckage of her home in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday. Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were in the kitchen when the quake struck on March 11.

Eighty-year-old Sumi Abe is wrapped in a blanket after being rescued from the wreckage of her home in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday. Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were in the kitchen when the quake struck on March 11.

Kahoku Shimpo/AFP/Getty Images

Update at 7:50 a.m. ET: Pressure inside of the Unit 3 reactor of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was rising Sunday, prompting plans to vent radioactive gases from the facility. But Tokyo Electric Power says the pressure has stabilized and that plans for the venting operation have been put aside.

Kyodo News says that efforts to provide a stable source of external electricity for the plant have made progress and that there is also progress in the frantic drive to cool the plant's nuclear fuel:

While the government said the ongoing operation to cool down the overheating spent fuel pools at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactor buildings are showing "some progress," the rise in pressure in the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel at one point highlighted that authorities are walking on thin ice in dealing with the disaster.

Firetrucks are being used to hose down hot nuclear fuel and components while workers try to re-connect the plant to the electrical grid, which would given them the power to try and re-start the plant's regular cooling systems. It's not clear, however, if the plant's regular cooling systems will be fully operational even with a consistent source of power.

The Japan Times reports:

Re-connecting the power cables is only the first step in defusing the crisis. Tepco officials need to check which devices are working and which aren't. Some may need to be repaired and others replaced before the cooling system, which was damaged by the March 11 tsunami, can be reactivated, a Tepco official said.

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