REPEAT-WRAPUP 6-Japan says it may take months to end radiation leaks

(Repeats to fix formating issues)

* Cracked pit one possible source of radiation leaks

* More bodies recovered from tsunami-hit coast

* Surivor tells harrowing story of rising water

(Adds latest on radiation leaks, quotes)

By Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO, April 3 (Reuters) – Japan’s government warned on
Sunday it may take months to stop radiation leaking from a
nuclear plant crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami three
weeks ago, as more bodies were recovered in devastated areas of
northeast Japan.

An aide to embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the
government’s priority was to stop radiation leaks which were
scaring the public and hindering work on cooling overheated
nuclear fuel rods.

“We have not escaped from a crisis situation, but it is
somewhat stabilised,” said Goshi Hosono, a ruling party lawmaker
and aide to Kan.

“How long will it take to achieve (the goal of stopping the
radiation leakage)? I think several months would be one target,”
Hosono said on a nationwide Fuji TV programme on Sunday.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)
found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in the
Fukushima Daiichi complex at the weekend, generating readings of
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 turned to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any
more contaminated water from going out.

The latest effort to staunch the flow of radioactive water
into the Pacific started on Sunday afternoon. Workers then
topped the polymers with more concrete.

“We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers but
are yet to see a visible effect,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama,
deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency.

Officials believe the crack could be one source of the
radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to control the
six-reactor complex and sent radiation levels in the sea soaring
to 4,000 times the legal limit.

The battle to cool overheated reactors and avoid dangerous
meltdowns of the highly radioactive fuel rods has seen workers
hose saltwater into reactors, but this has left the facility
awash with contaminated saltwater, preventing workers getting
closer to the reactors.

Nishiyama said fresh water was now being pumped into No. 1,
2 and 3 reactors using external power, which was more stable
than the emergency diesel generators previously being used.

He said the three reactors were now generally stable.

PM UNDER PRESSURE

The 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami on March 11 has left
nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and Japan’s northeast coast
a splintered wreck. The disaster has hit economic production and
left a damages bill which may top $300 billion.

After a three day intensive air and sea search by thousands
of U.S. and Japanese forces another 77 bodies were recovered,
Kyodo news agency said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Kan is under intense pressure to steer Japan
through its worst crisis since World War Two, but after three
weeks many Japanese are angry that the humanitarian disaster
seems to have taken a back seat to the nuclear crisis.

Unpopular and under pressure to quit or call a snap poll
before the disaster, Kan has been criticised for his crisis
management.

When Kan visited the devastated fishing port of
Rikuzentakata on Saturday, survivors struggling to rebuild their
lives complained that he had not visited them earlier.

More than 163,710 people are living in shelters, with more
than 70,000 people evacuated from a 20 km (12 mile) no-go zone
area the nuclear plant, and another 136,000 people living a
further 10 km out have been told to leave or stay indoors.

Harrowing stories are still emerging of just what happened
on the fateful afternoon of March 11.

Civil servant Takako Suzuki, 40, narrowly escaped when water
rose to within a few inches from the ceiling of an evacuation
centre she had rushed to. “I was thinking ‘if the water rises a
little bit, I’m finished’ – but fortunately the water suddenly
stopped rising and began receding,” she said.

Suzuki spent a night huddled with 11 other survivors in the
deep water, bodies floating around them. [ID:L3E7F300G]

MOVES TO STOP POWER BLACKOUTS

The world’s third largest economy has seen manufacturing
slump to a two-year low as a result of power outages and quake
damage hitting supply chains and production.

General Electric Co , which helped build the Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear power plant will help TEPCO supply electricity
in the coming summer months when power demand soars.
[ID:nL3E7F304N]

Demand for power jumps in Japan in summer due to heavy usage
of air-conditioners.

The government has said it will restrict maximum power usage
by companies during the hotter months in an effort to avoid
further blackouts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the Japanese
economy would take a short-term hit and it could not rule out
further intervention for the yen. [ID:nEBE7DA00J]

Farmers in the countryside surrounding the reactor are
fretting that consumers in Japan will reject their crops.

“Grown in Fukushima” has become a warning label for those
nervous of radiation which has already been found in some
vegetables close to the nuclear plant.

“There is no way we will be able to sell anything,” said
73-year-old farmer Akio Abiko. “People in Tokyo are just too
sensitive about this kind of thing.”

A group of farmers came to Tokyo from Fukushima at the
weekend, using Geiger counters to show their produce was safe.

(Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Kubota in
in Tokyo, David Dolan in Fukushima and Damir Sagolj in
Rikuzentakata; Writing by Michael Perry and Andrew Cawthorne;
Editing by Andrew Marshall)

REPEAT-WRAPUP 6-Japan says it may take months to end radiation leaks