Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Japan on 'maximum alert' in nuclear crisis: PM

Japan's prime minister is insisting his country is on "maximum alert" to bring its nuclear crisis under control as officials race to stabilize an earthquake-damaged reactor complex and contain the spread of radioactive water.

Naoto Kan told parliament on Tuesday, before a new earthquake was recorded off Japan's main island of Honshu, that Japan was grappling with its worst problems since the Second World War.

"This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan" in decades, said Kan.

He said the situation remained unpredictable, but added: "We will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert."

Tuesday's tremor, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3, struck around 8 p.m. local time near the spot of the devastating March 11 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The prime minister's comments also came as officials raised the alarm about the spread of radiation near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, 220 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

Plutonium has been found in seawater and soil near the complex and some samples can be traced to the earthquake-damaged facility, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power said on Monday. (read more)