Japan: Fukushima nuclear workers' bodies found

Concrete poured into the leaking containment pit at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2 (photo provided by Tepco) Concrete has failed to plug the leak at reactor 2, so the authorities now plan to use an absorbent polymer

The bodies of two workers killed by the tsunami which wrecked Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant more than three weeks ago have been recovered.

Their remains were found last Wednesday but had to be decontaminated before they could be returned to the families.

Meanwhile, officials are still struggling to stop contaminated water leaking into the sea from a crack in reactor 2.

They now intend to try using an absorbent polymer to plug the gap.

Initial attempts to stop the leak by pouring concrete into the containment pit have failed.

The authorities say the radioactive material will rapidly dissipate in the sea and is not thought likely to endanger health.

But the pools of contaminated water within the nuclear plant are hampering efforts to stabilise the reactors.

Thousands still missing

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which operates the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said the bodies of the two missing workers were found on 30 March in the basement of the turbine building of reactor 4.

They were named as Kazuhiko Kokubo, 24, and Yoshiki Terashima, 21.

They died of bleeding from multiple head wounds, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Fukushima nuclear plant

  • Reactor 1: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas explosion. Radioactive water detected in reactor and basement, and groundwater
  • Reactor 2: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage suspected. Highly radioactive water detected in reactor and adjoining tunnel
  • Reactor 3: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage possible. Spent fuel pond partly refilled with water after running low. Radioactive water detected in reactor and basement
  • Reactor 4: Reactor shut down prior to quake. Fires and explosion in spent fuel pond; water level partly restored
  • Reactors 5 & 6: Reactors shut down. Temperature of spent fuel pools now lowered after rising high

An operation to search for those still missing from communities further north along the coast is continuing on land and at sea, says the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Tokyo.

More than 60 bodies have been recovered over the past two days, our correspondent says, but more than 16,000 people remain unaccounted for.

On Saturday, Tepco officials said water contaminated with radioactive iodine was leaking from a 20cm (8in) crack in the pit at reactor 2.

They had earlier said they suspected radioactive material was escaping continuously from the plant.

Measurements showed the air above the radioactive water in the pit contained 1,000 millisieverts of radioactivity.

Also on Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited the area around Fukushima - his first ground visit to the disaster zone, although he had flown over tsunami-hit areas the day after the earthquake.

Mr Kan, who flew into Rikuzentakata on a military helicopter from Tokyo, visited an evacuation centre and the base camp for workers trying to stabilise the plant, just inside the 20-km exclusion zone around Fukushima Daiichi.

Mr Kan assured people in Rikuzentakata affected by the disaster that the Japanese government would do all it could to help them.

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