A nearly completed new power line could restore cooling systems in Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant, its operator said Thursday, raising some hope of easing the crisis that has threatened a meltdown and already spawned dangerous radiation surges.
The conditions at the plant appeared to worsen, with white smoke pouring from the complex and a surge in radiation levels forcing workers to retreat for hours Wednesday from their struggle to cool the overheating reactors.
As international concern mounted, the chief of the U.N. nuclear agency said he would go to Japan to assess what he called a "serious" situation and urged Tokyo to provide better information to his organization.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said the new power line to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant is almost finished and that officials plan to try it "as soon as possible," but he could not say exactly when.
The new line would revive electric-powered pumps, allowing the company to maintain a steady water supply to troubled reactors and spent fuel storage ponds, keeping them cool. The company is also trying to repair its existing disabled power line.
Wednesday's pullback by workers who have been pumping seawater into the reactors cost valuable time in the fight to prevent a nuclear meltdown, a nightmare scenario following Friday's horrific earthquake and tsunami. The disasters pulverized Japan's northeastern coast and are feared to have killed more than 10,000 people.
The tsunami destroyed the complex's backup power system and left operators unable to properly cool nuclear fuel. The 180 emergency workers have been working in shifts to manually pump seawater into the reactors.
Japan's emperor, in an unprecedented made-for-TV speech, called on the country to work together.
© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.