Japan seeks French, U.S. expertise in nuclear crisis

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(AP) - Japan is increasingly turning to othercountries for help as it struggles to stabilize itstsunami-stricken nuclear plant and stop radiation leaks that arecomplicating efforts to recover the bodies of some of the thousandsswept away by the towering wave. French, American and international experts - even a robot - areeither in Japan or on their way, and French President NicholasSarkozy visited Tokyo on Thursday to meet with the prime ministerand show solidarity. Workers are racing to find the source of contaminated water thathas been pooling in the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since theMarch 11 earthquake and tsunami. The leaks have often forcedworkers to flee the plant, preventing them from restartingimportant cooling systems. "The amount of water is enormous, and we need any wisdomavailable," said nuclear safety agency spokesman HidehikoNishiyama. A spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. saidThursday that radioactive contamination in groundwater 15 yards under one of six reactors there had been measured at10,000 times the government standard. It was the first time theutility has released statistics for groundwater near the plant. The government did not say what the standard is but the elevatedlevels would only be an issue if contamination got into the watersupply, and spokesman Naoyuki Matsumo said the water supply has notbeen affected. Also, no one is living there because everyone within12 miles of the plant has been evacuated. Still, elevated levels of iodine-131, a radioactive substancethat decays quickly, were another sign that radiation is leakingfrom the plant. Experts from French nuclear giant Areva, which supplied fuel tothe plant, are helping figure out how to dispose of thecontaminated water that has begun leaking into the ground and thesea. "We are not a supplier only for happy days," CEO AnneLauvergeon told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. "We areeffectively also there when things become difficult." Officials from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.,said they welcome the help. "U.S. nuclear plants aren't by the ocean, unlike Japanese ones,so we think the French may be able to help us more than theAmericans," said TEPCO Manager Teruaki Kobayashi. Officials with his company also said they expect to use aremote-controlled robot sent by the U.S. within a few days toevaluate areas with high radiation. They are also setting up apanel of Japanese and American nuclear experts and Americanmilitary personnel to address the crisis. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the tsunamiand magnitude-9.0 earthquake. Some saw their homes destroyed by thewall of water, while others have been ordered to leave theevacuation zone. Authorities have recommended that people in a20-mile band might want to evacuate too.

Links and information for relief efforts

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