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Tragic news_Japan nuclear plant plugs radioactive leak into ocean
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Japan nuclear plant plugs radioactive leak into ocean

TOKYO —  Workers at Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant today finally stemmed a tide of radiation that was pouring into the Pacific and exacerbating concerns over the safety of seafood.

High levels of contamination have been measured at the shoreline of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex in recent days, prompting the government to set limits for the first time on the amount of radiation permitted in fish.

While officials have said the crack in a maintenance pit plugged early today was the only one found, they have not explicitly ruled out that radioactive water is leaking into the sea from another point.

Authorities insisted the radioactive water would dissipate and posed no immediate threat to sea creatures or people who might eat them. Most experts agreed.

Still, Japanese officials adopted the new standards as a precaution. And the mere suggestion that seafood from the country that gave the world sushi could be at any risk stirred worries throughout the fishing industry.

“Even if the government says the fish is safe, people won’t want to buy seafood from Fukushima,” says Ichiro Yamagata, a fisherman who lived in the shadow of the power plant. “We probably can’t fish there for several years.”

Fukushima is not a major fishing region, and no fishing is allowed in the direct vicinity of the plant.

But experts estimate the coastal areas hit by the massive wave last month account for about a fifth of Japan’s annual catch.

Radiation concerns in the area intensified after the discovery over the weekend of the crack; photos showed water pouring out and splashing into the sea.

Since then, workers have raced to find a way to seal it, pouring in concrete and injecting a mixture of polymer, sawdust and shredded newspaper. Both failed.

But this morning, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said the injection of 400 gallons of “water glass,” or sodium silicate, and another agent near a seaside pit appeared to be successful.

It was a rare bit of good news for the utility that owns the crippled nuclear plant, about 140 miles northeast of Tokyo. But highly contaminated water continues to pool around the complex.

Tsunoda said officials were investigating whether the contaminated water is leaking from other places.

The tsunami killed up to 25,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless as it swamped about 250 miles of the northeastern coast and knocked out power to the nuclear plant.

Workers there have been desperately trying to cool down overheated reactors, but the effort has required spraying large amounts of water and allowing it to gush out wherever it can escape.



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