Power lines up in progress at Japan nuclear plant

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Workers at a leaking nuclear plant hooked up power lines to all six of the crippled complex’s reactor units Tuesday, but other repercussions from the massive earthquake and tsunami were still rippling across the nation as economic losses mounted at three of Japan’s flagship companies.

The progress on the electrical lines at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was a welcome and significant advance after days of setbacks. With the power lines connected, officials hope to start up the overheated plant’s crucial cooling system that was knocked out during the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan’s northeast coast.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. warned that workers still need to check all equipment for damage first before switching the cooling system on to all the reactor units — a process that could take days or even weeks.

Late Tuesday night, Tokyo Electric said lights went on in the central control room of Unit 3, but that doesn’t mean power had been restored to the cooling system. Officials will wait until sometime Wednesday to try to power up the water pumps to the unit.

Emergency crews also dumped 18 tons of seawater into a nearly boiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel, cooling it to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said. Steam, possibly carrying radioactive elements, had been rising for two days from the reactor building, and the move lessens the chances that more radiation will seep into the air.

Added up, the power lines and concerted dousing bring authorities closer to ending a nuclear crisis that has complicated the government’s response to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 18,000 people.

Its power supply knocked out by the disasters, the Fukushima complex has leaked radiation that has found its way into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater. Early Wednesday, the government added broccoli to the list of tainted vegetables.

The crisis was continuing to batter Japan’s once-robust economy.

Three of the country’s biggest brands — Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Sony Corp. — put off a return to normal production due to shortages of parts and raw materials because of earthquake damage to factories in affected areas.

Toyota and Honda said they would extend a shutdown of auto production in Japan that already is in its second week, while Sony said it was suspending some manufacturing of popular consumer electronics such as digital cameras and TVs.

As Japan mourns dead, many bodies remain missing

Eleven days after the tsunami slammed into the coast, obliterating entire villages, more than 9,000 bodies have been found — but some 13,800 people are still missing. The police estimate more than 15,000 deaths are likely just in Miyagi province.

Some of the missing will turn up elsewhere. They’ll be in hospitals, or staying with relatives, or will have been on vacation. More corpses will be found too as rescue operations shift to the grim work of cleanup, digging through tons of rubble and muck.

Increasingly, though, officials and rescue teams believe many people will never be found.

If history is any guide, thousands of bodies will never be found. Of the 164,000 people who died in Indonesia in the December 2004 tsunami, 37,000 simply disappeared, their bodies presumably washed out to sea.

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