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Japanese engineers strive to restore cooling systems

REUTERS/Self Defence Force Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon De

Engineers battled to restore cooling systems at a crippled Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture on Tuesday after smoke and steam escaping from stricken reactors delayed the operation. White steam-like vapour was seen rising from one reactor and white hazy smoke from another, 11 days after a 14-metre tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems and backup generators.

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The twin earthquake-tsunami disaster has left over 9,000 people dead and a further 12,000 missing, with entire communities along the country's north-east coast swept away.

But fears of a full-scale nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No 1 plant, which lies 250 kilometres from the greater Tokyo area, have in many ways overshadowed the natural disaster.

Four of the plant's six reactors have suffered fires and partial meltdowns, with Reactor No. 3 being especially volatile.

Plant staff and technicians, firefighters and military personnel were struggling to prevent a full meltdown at the seaside plant.

Abnormal levels of radiation were detected in some farm produce from regions around the plant, as well as in sea water and tap water in Tokyo, forcing authorities to suspend shipments of milk and some vegetables.

But if economic indicators are a sign of confidence in the progress being made to contain the nuclear crisis, the Tokyo stock market showed promising news on Tuesday.

Tokyo stocks closed 4.36 per cent higher after the central bank injected nearly 25 billion euros into the market.
 

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