Fukushima Repairs Continue; Radiation Detected in Produce

Meanwhile, plumes of black smoke were seen rising from Japan's crippled nuclear plant

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After working throughout the weekend to connect a mile-long power cable to the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima plant, engineers have found that "they still did not have enough power to fully run the systems that control the temperature and pressure in the building that houses the reactor," the New York Times reports. Although conditions are uncertain, the latest reports arriving indicate that radiation levels may be falling at the plant and remain below dangerous levels in Japan's major cities.

Countering this encouraging news, however, officials have reported white and black smoke rising from outside of the reactors. The Wall Street Journal reports that officials at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency noted that "causes of the smoke haven't yet been established," dashing hopes that workers had gained control of the situation. After using water cannons and military helicopter water drops to douse the reactors late last week, the Times reports that "firefighters from Tokyo doused Reactor No. 3 overnight and fire trucks from the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the American Army spent two hours on Monday morning spraying water on Reactor No. 4."

The Los Angeles Times meanwhile writes that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commission is tracking radiation levels using a "variety of sources," but power interruptions have "knocked out" some instruments that provide readings. "It's difficult to obtain accurate information," said NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko. The U.S. is making potassium iodide (which helps reduce radiation risk) available to its personnel in Japan as precaution, reports Reuters.

As of now, the official combined toll of those dead or missing in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami has surpassed 21,000, reports The Washington Post. Last week, radiation fears prompted the Japanese government to "conduct tests for for radioactivity levels in domestically produced foods," Kyodo News English reported. At the time, this prompted a backlash: "The government is spurring crisis. The decision makes it look as if contaminated food is already on the market,'' said Tatsuya Kakita, the head of a research institute on consumer issues. (via New York Times Lede).

Yet, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the Japanese government has decided to "suspend shipments of spinach and rapeseed after radiation exceeding the regulation limit was detected in some produce." According to the Journal, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano said "eating the banned food wouldn't pose any immediate risk to human health," but still proceeded to order the Fukushima prefecture not to sell milk out of radiation concerns.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.