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Japan nuclear struggle focuses on cracked reactor pit

TOKYO, April 3  - Japanese officials grappling on Sunday to end the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl tried to seal a crack that has been leaking radiation into the ocean from a crippled reactor.
An aide to embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government's main task now was to stop the radiation leaks that are spooking the population and scaring away tourists.

"We have not escaped from a crisis situation, but it is somewhat stablised," said Goshi Hosono, a ruling Democratic Party lawmaker.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it had found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in Fukushima on Saturday, generating readings 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside.

The leaks did not stop after concrete was poured into the pit, and TEPCO was turning to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any more contaminated water from going out.

"We are hoping that the polymers will absorb water and fill in the pipe to prevent water from flowing," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).

He said the latest effort to staunch the flow of radioactive water into the Pacific would start on Sunday afternoon and that workers would top the polymers with more concrete to hold in the water.

Nishiyama told reporters on Saturday that the crack "could be one source" of the radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to quell the damaged reactor.

On Sunday he added: "This(crack in the pit) for the first time clarified the relationship (of the contaminated water) with the sea."

Officials from the utility said checks of the other five reactors found no cracks.

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