It will take several months to bring Japan's radiation crisis under control, according to the country's top nuclear safety officials. Such a sombre and candid assessment punctuated the arrival of the International Atomic Energy Agency's reactor specialists in Japan to study the situation.

The Vienna-based IAEA said the objective of their mission, beginning on Monday, “is to have a direct exchange of views with the Japanese counterparts”. It was not specifically spelt out whether the IAEA specialists would also help their Japanese counterparts in ending the civil nuclear emergency.

Meanwhile, speaking in Tokyo, Seiji Shiroya, a top official of Japan's regulatory Nuclear Safety Commission, said: “Restoring the cooling systems [at the quake-and-tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant] will take several months.” He said the “debris and the high radiation levels”, caused by the impact of March 11 earthquake and tsunami, “will hamper work” at stabilising the damaged plant. In an independent comment, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a senior official of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said: “It is important to cool the reactors, stabilise them, and avoid damaging the [reactor] fuel rods again. Then, we should do three things. The first thing is to remove the contaminated [radioactive] water from the turbine buildings. The second thing is to reduce the levels of radioactive substances and block them [from escaping into air, soil, and seawater]. Thirdly and finally, we should establish a long-term mechanism to cool the reactors.”

By Monday, the official-level focus shifted towards the search for definitive solutions, as different from the day-to-day aspects of disaster-management at the plant site, where two workers were found dead a few days ago. Radioactive substances have been escaping from the site unabated.

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