Japan: Not enough safeguards to protect nuke plant

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(AP) - Japan's government admitted Tuesday that itssafeguards were insufficient to protect a nuclear plant against theearthquake and tsunami that crippled the facility and caused itspew radiation, and it vowed to overhaul safety standards. The struggle to contain radiation at the Fukushima Dai-ichicomplex has unfolded with near-constant missteps - the latestincluding two workers drenched with radioactive water despitewearing supposedly waterproof suits. The March 11 tsunami that slammed into Japan's northeast, wipingout towns and killing thousands of people, knocked out power andbackup systems at the coastal nuclear power plant. More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials saythe final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds ofthousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoodsdestroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion - the most expensivenatural disaster on record. The unfolding drama has drawn increasing criticism of theutility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of Japan'spreparedness for nuclear crises. "Our preparedness was not sufficient," Chief Cabinet secretaryYukio Edano told reporters. "When the current crisis is over, wemust examine the accident closely and thoroughly review" thesafety standards. An Associated Press investigation found that Tokyo ElectricPower Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence andgeological history that indicated that a massive earthquake - andsubsequent tsunami - was far more likely than they believed. That left the complex with nowhere near enough protectionagainst the tsunami. The mission to stabilize the power plant has been fraught withsetbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires, explosions andradiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete meltdown. The plant has been leaking radiation that has made its way intovegetables, raw milk and tap water as far away as Tokyo. Residentswithin 12 miles of the plant have been ordered toleave and some nations have banned the imports of food productsfrom the Fukushima region. Highly toxic plutonium was the latest contaminant found seepinginto the soil outside the plant, TEPCO said Monday. Safety officials said the amounts did not pose a risk to humans,but the finding supports suspicions that dangerously radioactivewater is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods.

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