By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Workers were evacuated from the stricken Fukushima nuclear complex today after gray smoke was seen rising from a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel.
Spokesman Hiroshi Aizawa said the cause of smoke at the storage pool of Fukushima’s reactor number three was being investigated. Unlike Fukushima’s other five reactors, which use enriched-uranium fuel rods, reactor number three uses more dangerous plutonium fuel rods.
Plant officials have been battling to cool reactors and spent fuel rods to bring radiation leaks under control after the power plant was damaged by the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The World Bank says it could take five years for Japan to rebuild from the triple disaster, costing the country as much as $235 billion. The World Bank also said the disasters have caused “unprecedented” damage to Japan’s housing and infrastructure — and that Japan’s economic growth will likely fall in the first half of this year.
Japan’s National Police Agency says it fears the death toll from the quake and tsunami will exceed 18,000. More than 8,600 people have been confirmed dead, while more than 12,800 are missing.