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Radioactivity may linger for months, Japan admits

japan-radioactivity

A fireman checks a devise to check the level of radiation on a vehicle before its owner and resident evacuates to other city, in Tamura city, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Saturday.

YOMIURI SHIMBUN, KANJI TADA Enlarge

TOKYO -- Engineers pinned their hopes on chemicals, sawdust, and shredded newspaper to halt highly radioactive water pouring into the ocean from Japan's tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant on Sunday as officials said it will take several months to bring the crisis under control. Their statement was the first time they have given a timetable.

Concrete already failed to stop the tainted water spewing from a crack in a maintenance pit. The new mixture did not appear to be working, but engineers said they were not abandoning the idea. More tests are scheduled.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has leaked radioactivity since the March 11 tsunami carved a path of destruction along Japan's northeastern coast. As many as 25,000 people were killed or are listed as missing.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami knocked out key cooling systems that kept the reactor from overheating. People living within 12 miles of the plant have been forced to leave their homes.

Officials said it will be several months before the radiation stops and cooling systems are restored.

After that happens, years of work remain to clean up the area around the complex and figure out what to do. "It would take a few months until we finally get things under control and have a better idea about the future," Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said. "We'll face a crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the end."

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it had found the bodies of two workers missing since the tsunami. Radiation, debris, and explosions prevented their discovery until Wednesday. The announcement was delayed several days out of respect for their families.

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