Japan scrambles to avert radiation leak at nuclear plant after 8.9 quake on Friday.

Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:45pm GMT

 

* Problems not at critical level -local officials quoted

* U.S. Air Force delivers coolant to nuclear plant

* Thousands of residents evacuated as precautionary measure (Adds researchers’ quotes, background)

By Osamu Tsukimori and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO, March 11 (Reuters) – Thousands of residents were evacuated from an area around a nuclear plant in quake-hit Japan after radiation levels rose in the reactor, but there was no word on whether there had actually been a leak.

Underscoring grave concerns about the Fukushima plant some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. air force had delivered coolant to avert a rise in the temperature of the facility’s nuclear rods.

Tokyo Electric Power Co said pressure inside a reactor at its Fukushima-Daiichi plant rose after the cooling system was knocked out by the earthquake, the largest on record in Japan.

Kyodo news agency quoted the company as saying that the radiation level was rising in the turbine building and the pressure had risen to 1.5 times the designed capacity.

Experts said there could be leakage if water levels in the Fukushima reactor fell and the temperature of the nuclear rods rose, though this might not happen immediately.

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