Japan on Friday vowed to make greater efforts to control the escalating crisis of radioactive leakage at the Fukushima Daiichi civil nuclear plant. The possibility of such leakage from the worst-hit reactor's core raised concerns among the nuclear safety officials. At this, the government stepped in to assuage fears.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, speaking in Tokyo exactly two weeks after a temblor and a tsunami devastated parts of Japan and ravaged the nuclear power plant, said: “We are trying to prevent a deterioration of the situation and we are still not in a position where we can be optimistic.” He said “we must remain vigilant and treat every development with the utmost care.”

The “development” in prime focus on Friday was the radiation accident that occurred at the reactor site a day earlier, forcing the hospitalisation of three workers. They had stepped on highly radioactive water at the site, apparently mindful of only air radiation, while on duty to connect the reactor unit to an external source of electricity.

In televised comments on Friday, an official of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), Hidehiko Nishiyama, said: “When we look into the composition of the water [at the reactor site], the source of water seems to be the reactor core. Another possible [source] … is the spent fuel. And, we cannot rule out that possibility either. But, I think, it is more likely that the water came from the reactor core.”

With such a possibility causing concerns that the reactor's core itself might have been damaged by the quake and the tsunami, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano sought to calm nerves. Addressing a press conference in Tokyo, Mr. Edano said: “There are no new developments being reported. There was water inside the [reactor] building. We do not know how this water has come into the building … At the current time … there is a possibility that a certain level of radioactive materials is leaking. And, whether the radioactive water came from the rector or from the spent-fuel pool: that's a question that requires some exhaustive investigation.”

On a related front, Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said “the United States is strongly concerned that our present operation spraying sea water [to cool the spent fuel] could eventually cause the equipment to corrode. As a result, they are urging us to switch over to fresh water. A U.S. military ship is presently on its way to the plant. It is filled with water that we would use as a back-up.”

With several countries moving to suspend the import of some Japanese food products out of fear of “radionuclide contamination” in them, Tokyo quoted the World Health Organisation as saying that it received no adverse reports so far from any importer of farm and dairy produce from Japan.

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