WRAPUP 6-Leak found in reactor pit, Japan PM tours disaster zone

* Japan PM visits tsunami-hit village, enters nuclear zone

* Nuclear crisis enters fourth week, no quick solution

* IMF warns economy to be hit by quake, possible yen
intervention

* Cracked concrete pit might be source of radiation leak
(Adds report that leak has not been stopped, para 5)

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chisa Fujioka

TOKYO, April 2 (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister made his
first visit to the country’s tsunami-devastated region on
Saturday as officials grappling to end the worst nuclear crisis
since Chernobyl said they may have discovered why radiation has
been leaking into the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T: Quote, Profile, Research) said it had found
a crack in a concrete pit that was leaking water at its No.2
reactor in Fukushima, measuring 1,000 millisieverts of
radiation per hour. [ID:nL3E7F2039]

“With radiation levels rising in the seawater near the
plant, we have been trying to confirm the reason why, and in
that context, this could be one source,” said Hidehiko
Nishiyama, deputy head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency (NISA).

He cautioned, however: “We can’t really say for certain
until we’ve studied the results.”

TEPCO poured concrete into the pit to stop the leak, but
water prevented it from hardening and the leak had yet to be
stopped, public broadcaster NHK said.

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Needing a human touch, jumpers needed [ID:nL3E7F11X9]

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Prime Minister Naoto Kan spoke with refugees living in a
makeshift camp in the fishing village of Rikuzentakata,
levelled by the tsunami which struck on March 11 when Japan was
rocked by a massive earthquake, leaving 28,000 dead and
missing.

“It will be kind of a long battle, but the government will
be working hard together with you until the end. I want
everyone to do their best, too,” Kyodo news agency quoted Kan
as telling one survivor in a school that is now an evacuation
shelter by Japan’s shattered northeast coast.

But some survivors were angry Kan took three weeks to
visit, accusing the government of doing little to help them
rebuild their lives amongst the twisted rubble.

“The timing of his visit is too late,” said Ryoko Otsubo.
“I wish he had visited this place earlier. I wanted him to see
the piles of debris where there were no roads. Now the roads
are cleaned.”

Despite its tsunami seawalls, Rikuzentakata was flattened
into a wasteland of mud and debris and many of its 23,000
residents killed or injured, some swept away by the waves.

“A person that used to have a house near the coast told me
‘Where am I supposed to build a house after this?’, so I
encouraged this person and said the government will provide
support until the end,” Kan told reporters.

Unpopular and under pressure to quit or call a snap poll
before the disaster, Kan has been criticised for his management
of Japan’s humanitarian and nuclear crisis and his leadership
remains in question.

“There are some evacuation centres that lack electricity
and water. There are people who can’t even go look for the
dead. I want him to pay attention to them,” Kyodo quoted Kazuo
Sato, a 45-year-old fisherman, as saying.

Kan later entered the 20-km (12-mile) evacuation zone and
visited J-village just inside the zone, a sports facility
serving as the headquarters for emergency teams trying to cool
the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi plant.

ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES

After three weeks, operators of the plant are no closer to
regaining control of damaged reactors, as fuel rods remain
overheated and high levels of radiation flow into the sea.

TEPCO, Asia’s largest power company, has seen its shares
lose 80 percent — $32 billion in market value — since the
disaster.

Japan is facing a damages bill which may top $300 billion
— the world’s biggest from a natural disaster.

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

The IMF is set to cut its 2011 forecast for Japanese growth
when it unveils updated figures on April 11 in its World
Economic Outlook, said IMF Japan mission chief Mahmood Pradhan.

Japan’s central bank is expected to revise down its
economic assessment when it meets on April 6-7 in the wake of
the crisis.

The consequences for the world’s third largest economy have
already seen manufacturing slump to a two-year low. Power
outages and quake damage have hit supply chains and production.

There has been growing talk of a coalition between the
ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to tackle the aftermath of the
crisis.

But there has been no agreement and the Yomiuri newspaper
said some in the LDP would likely insist Kan step down first.

The government has already been battling the opposition to
get laws in place to make the new budget, from April 1,
workable.

Kan wants an extra budget soon for reconstruction which
would also need help from opposition parties to function.

RADIATION BATTLE CONTINUES

Hundreds of thousands remain homeless, sheltering in
evacuation centres, as the death toll from the disaster rises.

Thousands of Japanese and U.S. soldiers on Saturday
conducted a search for bodies using dozens of ships and
helicopters to sweep across land still under water along the
northeast coast.

The teams hope when a large spring tide recedes it will
make it easier to spot bodies.

Radiation 4,000 times the legal limit has been detected in
seawater near the Daiichi plant and a floating tanker was to be
towed to Fukushima to store contaminated seawater. But until
the plant’s internal cooling system is reconnected radiation
will flow from the plant.

It could take years, possibly decades, to make safe the
area around the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

With its president, Masataka Shimizu, in hospital, an
enormous compensation bill looming and mounting criticism of
both its handling of the crisis and prior safety preparations,
TEPCO may need state help, according to media reports.

Kan has all but ruled out nationalising TEPCO but some sort
of injection of public funds looks inevitable.

Standard & Poor’s on Friday cut its long-term rating on
TEPCO by three notches to “BBB+”, in its second downgrade on
the electric utility in as many weeks.

(Additional reporting by Terril Jones in Tokyo, Damir
Sagolj in Rikuzentakata and Lesley Wroughton in Washington;
Writing by Paul Eckert; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Jeremy
Laurence)

WRAPUP 6-Leak found in reactor pit, Japan PM tours disaster zone