UPDATE AS OF 11:00 A.M. EDT, MARCH 23:
Workers continued efforts on Wednesday to restore offsite power to six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. External power was available Wednesday at reactors 2, 3, 5 and 6, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said, but has not yet been re-established to reactor safety systems.
The next step before fully connecting external power is to test and repair the equipment that it will power. Cooling pumps for reactors 1 and 2 were covered by seawater and will require maintenance to bring them online. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is testing the cooling water pumps for reactor 3. External power was connected to the main control room at reactor 3 on Tuesday.
Reactors 5 and 6, which were shut down for maintenance at the time of the earthquake, are in safe shutdown.
"The earthquake and tsunami may have inflicted considerable damage in addition to knocking out electricity supplies," the International Atomic Energy Agency said. "Since the extent of this damage (and therefore the extent of necessary repair) is unknown, it is not possible to accurately estimate a work schedule."
Japanese authorities have detected high levels of radioactive cesium 137 in soil about 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima plant. Surveys of radioactive substances in soil at six locations found levels of cesium 137 that are 1,600 times typical for that area. Japan's government is expanding offshore monitoring for radioactive nuclides to 30 kilometers.
Japanese authorities have advised Tokyo residents not to provide municipal drinking water to infants or use it in mixing powdered milk for infants because of abnormal levels of radioactive iodine (I-131) detected in the drinking water. One water sample (5,700 picocuries per liter) indicated approximately twice the Japanese government guideline and prompted the restriction for infants. In an emergency in the United States, state and local officials would closely monitor food and drinking water supplies and quarantine any contaminated supplies as needed to prevent public exposure. U.S. officials use pre-established guidelines for safe consumption of food and water set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The U.S. Department of Energy has released the first radiation data from its aerial monitoring system and ground detectors in Japan. The department will update the data regularly. For the latest information, click here.