Emergency continues at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant (Wrapup 1)

Fears of a possible nuclear disaster remain high in Japan as the country continues tackling the consequences of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, which has killed at least 5,000 people and left thousands missing.

A blast on Monday at yet another reactor of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Japan has further escalated concerns about possible radioactive leaks, although the country’s government has vowed that there is no major health risk.

Blast at another Fukushima reactor

The explosion hit reactor No. 3 of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on Monday morning, injuring 11 people. Although pictures from the site showed massive destruction of the reactor building, Japanese officials said the reactor itself resisted the blast.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported on Monday that the cooling system at reactor No. 2 had failed. A lack of cooling liquid in the reactor raised fears of a possible blast earlier in the day. However, a few hours later, injection of water into the reactor restarted, the plant’s operator said.

Operations to cool the plant’s three reactors, two of which were hit by blasts on Saturday and Monday, with seawater are continuing amid fears that a meltdown of the cores might begin.

At least 5,000 people were killed or went missing after Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, but police warn the death toll in the Miyagi prefecture alone could exceed 10,000.

Russia sends rescue teams, nuclear specialists to Japan

Russian specialists from Rosenergoatom and the Nuclear Safety Institute (IBRAE) will fly to Japan together with a group of rescuers to monitor the situation with the country’s nuclear power plants, IBRAE’s spokesman Rafael Arutyunyan said on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the area around Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant following Monday’s explosion.

President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences over the disaster to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a telephone conversation on Monday.

‘No threat to Russia’

The two blasts at the Fukushima plant pose no threat to Russia and will not affect the development of the Russian nuclear energy sector, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

“Our specialists believe that a nuclear blast that could destroy the reactor itself is highly unlikely,” Putin said. “We are convinced that there is no threat to Russian territory.”

Specialists have been monitoring the radiation level in the Russian Far East following the explosions at the Fukushima plant.

Alexander Frolov, the head of Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology, said monitoring results showed that the radiation level in the region was normal.

“In some areas it is even a little lower. The weather situation is favorable for Russia because all of the [radioactive] emissions, if there are any, are being blown over the [Pacific] Ocean,” Frolov said.

Russia boost energy supplies to Japan

Russia is increasing energy supplies to Japan to help its disaster-hit neighbor tackle energy shortages.

Medvedev called for Russian producers of liquefied natural gas on Monday to review contracts with Japan and increase supplies to the country.

“Our partners should make concessions. This is a very big problem and we should introduce changes to agreements [with Japan],” Medvedev said, speaking at his Gorki residence outside Moscow.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told Medvedev that Russian energy giant Gazprom was planning to increase its supplies of liquefied natural gas to Japan by 100,000 tons in April and May.

He also said Russia intended to supply about 6,000 megawatts of electricity to Japan in the near future.

There are plans for constructing an underwater electric line linking Russia to Japan, Sechin said, adding however that the construction would take up to two years.

“We are ready to do this together with [our] Japanese colleagues and will formulate the according proposals in the near future,” he said.

MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti)

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