The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant stabilised on Sunday as engineers reconnected power to two of the reactor buildings at the earthquake-stricken facility.
Almost 300 engineers have been battling to contain radiation leaks from the plant, 240km north of Tokyo, since it was hit by the devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the crisis 10 days ago.
Although power has been restored to the No 1 and 2 reactor buildings considerable work remains to both connect the power to the pumps and make sure they are functioning. Reconnecting power would restore measurement instruments and cooling systems for both the reactors and spent fuel pools.
Earlier on Sunday there had been renewed concern over rising pressure at the No 3 reactor, which of the six at the plant has caused the most acute problems since the nuclear emergency began.
Pressure inside the No 3 reactor began to rise during Sunday and Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency initially said that radioactive steam would need to be either released through the suppression pool of water under the reactor No 3 or directly into the air.
However, such a release of radioactive material would have forced other workers on the site to evacuate, hampering the efforts at reactors No 1 and 2.
Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the plant, said it had decided therefore not to release steam but would watch the pressure of the reactor closely.
An elite unit from the Tokyo fire department finished a 13-hour operation to spray water on to reactor No 3 in order to refill the cooling pool for spent nuclear fuel on Sunday.
The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami – Japan’s worst post-war disaster – rose to 8,133 on Sunday with another 12,272 people still missing.
Dramatic rescue after nine days under the rubble
Two people were found alive in the wreckage of a house in the north-eastern Japanese city of Ishinomaki on Sunday, nine days after a tsunami devastated the town, state broadcaster NHK reported, writes Mure Dickie in Tokyo.
Television footage from the scene showed Sumi Abe, aged 80, telling rescuers her name and confirming that she had been in her home since the March 11 tsunami, which wreaked huge damage along the north-eastern coast.
Ms Abe’s grandson Jin had been found with her and was also conscious, NHK quoted police as saying, though both were weak and the boy was suffering from low body temperature.
There have been far fewer such survival stories in the aftermath of the tsunami that would be normal in the case of an earthquake because the vast majority of people in the area either made it to high ground and were safe or were trapped in the water and drowned.
Get alerts on World when a new story is published