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Fukushima Nuclear Crisis "Stabilizing", U.S. To Check Its Own Facilities

Kevin Douglas Grant |
March 21, 2011 | 9:56 a.m. PDT

Executive Editor

With more than 20,000 dead or missing after Japan's worst natural disaster in almost 90 years, the country can be thankful Fukushima Daiichi power plant is on the mend.

After worries that ruptured nuclear reactors at Fukushima would create a Chernobyl-like catastrophe, engineers have been able to bring them to the "verge of stabilizing", according to a top U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official.

Workers are close to restoring power to the plant and its reactors are being kept sufficiently cool using sea-water injection.  U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu said: "With each passing hour, each passing day, things are more under control."

It is believed that radiation which eminated from the plant has contaminated spinach and milk in the region, though one Japanese offical said he would be comfortable serving them to his family.

Markets rallied on word of the improved situation at Fukushima, while the situation on the ground in areas affected by the earthquke and tsunami remained bleak.  

BBC reports:  More than 350,000 people are still living in evacuation centres in northern and eastern Japan. There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine in the shelters, officials say.

Some aid from foreign countries has started to arrive, and the government has started the process of finding temporary housing in other parts of the country for those made homeless.

Nearly 900,000 households are still without water."

With U.S. humanitarian aid to Japan limited by poor weather and fears of radiation, Americans at home continue to obsess about potential nuclear dangers.

The question from the California coast to New York is: "Could Fukushima happen here?"  

The Wall Street Journal reports that 23 American reactors have a similar design to those at Fukushima.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman said it "required nuclear plants after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to take measures to limit the chance of a loss of electrical power or cooling-water injection" and to ensure "facilities would have multiple backup systems to provide electricity" in the event of a disaster.

The NRC will continue to take lessons from the disaster, and see which can be applied here, he said.



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