Power line hopes for nuclear plant
Emergency workers racing to cool dangerously overheated nuclear fuel are scrambling to connect Japan's crippled reactors to a new power line, as a safety official suggested faulty planning at the complex helped trigger the crisis.
Back-up power systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had been improperly protected, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, leaving them vulnerable to the tsunami that savaged the north-eastern coast on March 11 and sparked the nuclear emergency.
The failure of Fukushima's back-up power systems, which were supposed to keep cooling systems going in the aftermath of the massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake, let uranium fuel overheat and were a "main cause" of the crisis, Mr Nishiyama said.
"I cannot say whether it was a human error, but we should examine the case closely," he told reporters.
A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, which owns and runs the plants, said that while the generators themselves were not directly exposed to the waves, some of the electrical support equipment was outside. The complex was designed to protect against tsunamis of up to 16ft, he said, but some reports have put the height of the waves that hit Fukushima at 20ft.
Plant operators said they would reconnect four of the plant's six reactor units to a power grid. Although a replacement power line has reached the complex, workers had to methodically work through badly damaged and deeply complex electrical systems to make the final link-ups without setting off a spark and potentially an explosion.
Meanwhile, rescuers pulled a man alive from a wrecked house, but reports later said he had returned to the building after the disaster and had only been trapped for one day. He was too weak to talk and transferred immediately to a hospital, a military official said.
The rescue happened as fears were expressed about radiation levels in spinach and milk from farms near the Fukushima complex.
The food comes from as far away as 65 miles from the plant, suggesting a wide spread of nuclear contamination, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said there was no immediate health risk to the public.
Trace amounts of radioactive iodine have also been detected in tap water in six areas including Tokyo, but ministers said that the amounts did not exceed government safety limits.