Setbacks mount in Japan at leaking nuclear plant

A frogman is screened for leaked radiation after interrupting an undersea search at the port of Obama, northeastern Japan on Wednesday, March 30. The March 11 quake off Japan’s northeast coast triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. (AP Photo)
TOKYO, March 30 (AP): Setbacks mounted Wednesday in the crisis over Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear facility, with nearby seawater testing at its highest radiation levels yet and the president of the plant operator checking into a hospital with hypertension.
Nearly three weeks after a March 11 tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, knocking out power to the cooling system that keeps nuclear fuel rods from overheating, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is still struggling to bring the facility in northeastern Japan under control.
Radiation leaking from the plant has seeped into the soil and seawater nearby and made its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far as Tokyo, 140 miles (220 kilometers) to the south. The stress of reining in Japan's worst crisis since World War II has taken its toll on TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu, who was sent to a hospital late Tuesday.
Shimizu, 66, has not been seen in public since a March 13 news conference in Tokyo, raising speculation that he had suffered a breakdown. For days, officials deflected questions about Shimizu's whereabouts, saying he was "resting" at company headquarters. Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said Wednesday that Shimizu had been admitted to a Tokyo hospital after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure.
The leadership vacuum follows growing criticism of TEPCO for its failure to halt the radiation leaks. Bowing deeply, arms at his side, Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata announced at a news conference that he would step in and apologized for the delay.
"We must do everything we can to end this situation as soon as possible for the sake of everyone who has been affected," said Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima prefecture. "I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the suggestion that this might drag out longer."
TEPCO acknowledged publicly for the first time that at least four of the plant's six reactors will have to be decommissioned once the crisis subsides, citing the corrosive seawater used to cool reactors and spent fuel pools.
"After pouring seawater on them ... I believe we cannot use them anymore," Katsumata said. Japan's government has been saying since March 20 that the entire plant must be scrapped.
Radioactive dust found in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, March 30 (PTI):
Radioactive dust believed to be from a crippled nuclear power plant in Japan has been detected nearly 3,000 kilometres away in Hong Kong, officials said Wednesday. The amounts detected were so miniscule it would take up to 2,500 years of continued exposure to have any perceptible effect on human health, an official from the Hong Kong Observatory said. The radioactive dust, believed to have blown in on a westerly wind, was the first detected in Hong Kong since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which damaged the plant in Fukushima and matches similar readings on the east coast of China in recent days. "It would take 800 to 2,500 years of continued exposure to the detected levels in order to receive the radiation dosage equal to one X-ray," a government spokesman said.
Hong Kong's 600 Japanese restaurants have lost an estimated 20 percent of business since the March 11 disaster because of fears over radiation contamination, the South China Morning Post said Wednesday.