Nuclear plant confirms two deaths as crisis drags on

JAPAN’S Fukushima nuclear power plant may not be brought under control for several more months following the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

That was the view of a spokesman for the plant, as it was also confirmed that two workers at the plant lost their lives to the tsunami.

A 21 and 24-year-old were conducting regular checks when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that preceded the tsunami hit.

They apparently ran to a basement turbine room, when the massive wave swept over the plant. Their bodies were not discovered until Wednesday and had to be decontaminated. The announcement was delayed while authorities notified their families.

The Fukushima plant has been spewing radioactivity since the tsunami carved a path of destruction along Japan’s north-eastern coast, killing as many as 25,000 people. Tens of thousands have lost their homes, 200,000 households do not have water, and 170,000 do not have electricity.

Nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama yesterday offered the first sense of how long it might take to bring an end to the nuclear crisis.

“It would take a few months until we finally get things under control and have a better idea about the future,” Nishiyama said.

“We’ll face a crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the end.”

Bringing the reactors at the plant under control will require permanently restoring cooling systems knocked out by the tsunami, a task complicated by dangerous conditions that have often forced workers to stop what they are doing.

Workers discovered an 8-inch crack in a maintenance pit over the weekend and believe water from it may be the source of some of the high levels of radioactive iodine that have been found in the ocean for more than a week.

The contaminated water dissipates quickly in the ocean but could pose a danger to workers at the plant.

Engineers have tried to plug the leak twice already but to little avail. Workers should know this morning if they have been successful.

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