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More cases of radiation in water reported

TOKYO, March 24 (UPI) -- A water purification plant in Kawaguchi showed radiation levels over the limit for infants, an official said, a day after a similar testing in nearby Tokyo.

Thursday's report from the town in Saitama Prefecture came as concerns rose in Tokyo about radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, 150 miles north of the densely-populated Japanese capital area.

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Work resumed Thursday at the Fukushima plant, whose reactors and spent fuel cooling systems were hit by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and towering tsunami. The main focus was on restoring power and the cooling functions to prevent a catastrophic radiation leak, while ground water spraying continued.

Work by engineers of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's operator, was disrupted Wednesday and workers were evacuated after black smoke was seen rising form the No. 3 reactor building, which was damaged by earlier explosions and fires. The reason for the smoke, which receded about an hour later, was not clear.

The utility said Thursday it had ensured it would be safe for workers to return, Kyodo News reported.

All six reactors at the plant have been reconnected to external power sources and the effort now is to check each piece of equipment in the reactors before supplying power to them, Kyodo said.

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The government began monitoring radiation levels in soil, seawater and air around the plant to examine the extent of contamination and how it will affect the farm and fishery industries, the report said. One of the materials to be monitored is strontium, which can cause bone cancer and leukemia.

In Kawaguchi, a city official said levels of iodine-131 had risen to 120 becquerels per 1 kilogram of water at its treatment facility but had remained below the 100 becquerels limit for infants Thursday, Kyodo reported.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported a test of 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine at a water purification plant, which led to an alert to residents not to give tap water to infants for the time being.

The metropolitan government began distributing bottled water to families with infants, with plans to ask bottled water makers to increase their output.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government could import bottled water from overseas if supplies tighten. He stressed the current radiation levels pose no risk to either children or adults.

The Japanese government has widened its food shipment ban to include several varieties of vegetables and milk from the Fukushima nuclear plant area for fear of radiation contamination.

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A preliminary government estimate said the economic losses from the March 11 disaster could go as high as $310 billion in seven of the worst-hit prefectures and cause the GDP to shrink 0.5 percent next fiscal starting April.

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