Experts have released pressure and let out steam in nuclear reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima No.1 plant in northeastern Japan in a move to prevent radiation leaks in the area, the Industry Ministry said on Saturday.
However, the release of steam is likely to include radioactive materials, the Kyodo news agency said earlier.
The Industry Ministry called an urgent news conference following local media reports about radioactive cesium leaks in and near Fukushima No.1 after an 8.9-magnitude quake hit northern Japan on Friday, leaving at least 703 dead, 1,000 injured and 784 missing, according to police.
Until now, Japanese officials have been making controversial statements on the accident, mostly denying any meltdown.
Media reports also said the cooling system had failed at three reactors of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant on Saturday.
People from areas surrounding the Fukushima plant are being evacuated.
Radiation levels inside the plant rose to 1,000 times above the norm, and are about eight times above the norm outside the plant. Radiation levels increased as power shortages caused the reactor to overheat, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said, adding that the failsafe system at the No. 2 plant had stopped functioning as the temperature of coolant water topped 100 C.
Japan has more than 54 nuclear energy units in operation, and about one quarter of all energy produced in the country comes from nuclear power plants.
The earthquake struck about 373 km (232 miles) northeast of Tokyo on Friday afternoon, sparking a series of tsunamis. Several aftershocks occurred shortly after the initial quake. The strongest tremor was measured at 7.1 on the Richter scale.
TOKYO, March 12 (RIA Novosti)