Nuclear plant chief hospitalized

Updated: 2011-03-31 07:54

By Mari Yamaguchi (China Daily)

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 Nuclear plant chief hospitalized
Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc (TEPCO) Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata (center) and Executive Vice-Presidents Sakae Muto (right) and Takashi Fujimoto bow at a news conference at the company's head office in Tokyo on Wednesday. TEPCO has secured $24 billion in bank loans but said it would not be enough to keep the company running, adding to fears the utility may collapse under the strain of paying for Japan's worst nuclear disaster. [Toru Hanai / Reuters]

TOKYO - The president of the utility that owns Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear complex was hospitalized with hypertension as setbacks mounted at the plant, where experts on Wednesday logged the highest radiation yet in nearby seawater.

Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), has not been seen for nearly two weeks after appearing at a Tokyo news conference two days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Daiichi plant's cooling systems and set off radiation leaks.

Shimizu, 66, was taken on Tuesday to a Tokyo hospital after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure, TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said.

There had been much speculation about Shimizu's health since he disappeared from public view, with company Vice- President Sakae Muto appearing instead at news briefings. TEPCO officials had deflected questions about Shimizu's health, saying he was "resting" at company headquarters.

It was the latest crisis to beset TEPCO, still struggling to stabilize the dangerously overheated power plant and to contain the radiation seeping from the complex and into the sea and soil nearby. The magnitude-9.0 quake spawned a tsunami that knocked out power and backup systems crucial to keeping temperatures down inside the plant's reactors and spent fuel pools.

Residents within 20 kilometers of the plant were evacuated two weeks ago, while those up to 30 km have been urged in recent days to leave voluntarily.

Elevated levels of radiation, meanwhile, has turned up in vegetables, raw milk and water. Last week, tap water as far away as Tokyo, 220 km to the south, contained levels of cancer-causing iodine-131 considered unsafe for infants.

On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater outside the plant was found to contain 3,335 times the usual amount of radioactive iodine - the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean. The amount of iodine-131 found offshore some 300 meters south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a "concern", Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official, said on Wednesday.

Associated Press


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