WRAPUP 1-Japan’s reactor operator apologises for radiation

* TEPCO apologises to Japan, neighbours over radiation

* Pumping of radioactive water into sea to end Sunday

* PM Kan to visit tsunami zone

* Japan hopes China farm import bans will stay “reasonable”

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chisa Fujioka

TOKYO, April 10 (Reuters) – A Japanese power company
executive apologised for spreading radiation into the air and
sea as regulators said the pumping of radioactive water into
waters off Japan from a crippled nuclear plant would end on
Sunday, one day later than planned.

The apology from Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T: Quote, Profile, Research)
came a day after China and South Korea expressed concern at the
discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant
smashed by last month’s earthquake, reflecting growing
international unease over the month-long nuclear crisis.

“I would like to apologise from my heart over the worries
and troubles we are causing for society due to the release of
radiological materials into the atmosphere and sea water,” Sakae
Muto, a TEPCO vice president, said on Saturday.

“We caused worry and trouble for having made this decision
without taking sufficient time to explain the matter beforehand
to those involved, to the press, to the fishing industry and to
people overseas, and we are sorry for this,” he added.

In Jakarta, Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto explained
Japan’s crisis policies to counterparts from the 10 ASEAN
countries on Saturday and his spokesman urged Japan’s neighbours
not to exaggerate the low levels of radiation.

“We are quite sorry about the fact that the nuclear plants
are causing those worries, concerns all over the world, but you
have to check the level of radioactivity that the IAEA is
talking about,” said spokesman Satoru Sato.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director-general at Japan’s
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told reporters on
Saturday: “We are working on releasing water … we are likely
to finish this tomorrow.”

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He said a condenser at the No.2 reactor had been emptied of
low-radiation water on Saturday, making room for engineers to
shift highly radioactive water from the reactor’s trench.

“To prevent radioactive water in the trench from overflowing
is an important step considering a possible further
contamination of the sea,” Nishiyama said.

TEPCO is struggling to contain the worst atomic crisis since
the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Engineers say they are
far from in control of the damaged reactors and it could take
months to stabilise them and years to clear up the toxic mess
left behind.

Nishiyama said Japan would look into the electric power
back-up system that had failed after the tsunami, leaving
operators unable to cool the reactor.

The magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 left
28,000 people dead or missing, and northeastern Japan a
splintered wreck.

More than 153,000 people affected by the tsunami and
radiation are living in school gymnasiums and other evacuation
centres, according to the National Police Agency. Several
tsunami-damaged cities have begun moving families into temporary
housing, NHK state television said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been criticised by the
Japanese media and opposition parties for his handling of the
crisis, will visit shattered fishing villages in Miyagi
prefecture on Sunday.

A large slate of big city and prefectural assembly and
executive elections on Sunday will pose an indirect test of
Kan’s popularity. Polls have been postponed for districts
affected by the tsunami and nuclear disasters.

GLOBAL RADIATION CONCERNS

Several countries have restricted food imports from Japan
over radiation fears as Japan’s economy reels from the country’s
worst disaster since World War Two.

Food is a tiny part of Japan’s export-oriented economy, but
disruptions to its manufacturing and electronics supply chains
are reverberating around the world.

China will ban imports of farm produce from 12 areas in
Japan, China’s quarantine authority said.

China said earlier it had detected 10 cases of ships,
aircraft or cargo arriving from Japan with higher than normal
levels of radiation since mid-March. [ID:nL3E7F81JE]

“China has the full authority to take necessary measures but
we are hoping that those measures would be reasonable,” said
Sato in Jakarta.

South Korea has also criticised Japan, accusing it of
incompetence for failing to notify its neighbours that it would
pump radioactive water into the sea.

Radiation from Japan spread around the entire northern
hemisphere in the first two weeks of the nuclear crisis,
according to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.

ECONOMY REELING

The world’s third largest economy is now in a “severe
condition,” the government said on Friday.

Finance leaders of the G20 group of countries will ask Tokyo
for a plan to resuscitate its economy as they see the damage
from the earthquake as a risk to global growth, Takatoshi Kato,
a former IMF deputy managing director, told Reuters on Friday.
[ID:nLME7DP00O]

Automaker Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to idle some of
U.S. plants late in April, while Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research) has
extended reduced U.S. production until April 22.

Power blackouts and restrictions, factory shutdowns, and a
sharp drop in tourists have hit the world’s most indebted
nation, which is facing a damage bill as high as $300 billion,
making it by far the world’s costliest natural disaster.

Economists expect Japan to slip into recession this year.
($1=85.475 Japanese yen)
(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota, Shinichi Saoshiro, Olivia
Rondonuwu in Jakarta, Ben Blanchard and Sui-lee Wee in Beijing,
Jacqueline Wong in Shanghai, Jack Kim in Seoul; Writing by Paul
Eckert and Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

WRAPUP 1-Japan’s reactor operator apologises for radiation