Japan PM orders halt at Hamaoka nuclear plant
Japan's prime minister has told a power company to halt operations at another nuclear plant due to fears an earthquake could trigger a new crisis.
Naoto Kan said three reactors at Hamaoka plant should be suspended until new safety measures were put in place.
Experts said the chances of a powerful quake hitting the area were high.
Engineers are still working to stabilise the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.
Cooling systems at the six-reactor plant were knocked out, causing fuel rods to overheat. There were subsequently explosions at the four reactors operating at the time of the earthquake.
Engineers are pumping water into the reactors to cool them as they work to restore the damaged cooling systems.
A 20km (12 mile) mandatory evacuation zone has been put in place around the plant because of concern about radiation levels - forcing some 80,000 residents to leave their homes.
Addressing a news conference on Friday, Mr Kan said the five-reactor Hamaoka plant, operated by the Chubu Electric Power Company, had been ordered to suspend two running reactors and a third shut for a regular inspection.
The Hamaoka plant, which lies 200km (120 miles) south of Tokyo, is in Shizuoka prefecture - an area which seismologists say is overdue for an earthquake.
"The relevant authorities, including the science ministry, have shown that the possibility of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hitting the area of the Hamaoka plant within the next 30 years is 87%," Mr Kan said.
"This is a decision made for the safety of the people when I consider the special conditions of the Hamaoka plant."
Mr Kan said the government would work to prevent power supply problems arising from the decision.
He said safety measures, including the construction of sea walls, would need to be implemented at the plant before operations resumed.
Scepticism over the use of nuclear energy in resource-poor Japan has risen as engineers struggle to bring the situation at Fukushima Daiichi under control.
Its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has warned that it could take up to nine months to achieve a cold shutdown at the plant.
Earlier on Friday, it released images of the interior of the crippled building containing reactor No 1.
The photos were taken on Thursday after workers were allowed in for the first time to install a ventilation system.
The men worked in small teams on 10-minute shifts to limit their exposure to the contaminated atmosphere while they installed the ventilation system and filters.
Tepco says it will take about three days to vent the contaminated air, filter it, and return purified air to the building.
The radiation levels inside the reactor buildings must be lowered before new cooling systems can be installed.
In the meantime, extra water is being pumped in to reactor No 1 as part of a new cooling strategy, approved by Japan's nuclear safety agency.
Tepco said it expected the additional water to cool and decrease pressure in the containment vessel.
The firm said it planned to complete construction of the new cooling system for reactor No 1 in late May or early June, local media reported.BBC News