Japan ordered emergency workers to withdraw from its stricken nuclear complex Wednesday amid a surge in radiation, temporarily suspending efforts to cool the overheating reactors. Hours later, officials said they were preparing to send the team back in.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the workers, who had been dousing the reactors with seawater in a frantic effort to stabilize their temperatures, had no choice but to pull back from the most dangerous areas.
"The workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," he said Wednesday morning, as smoke billowed above the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. "Because of the radiation risk we are on standby."
Later, an official with Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the plant, said the team had withdrawn about 500 yards (meters) from the complex, but were getting ready to go back in.
The nuclear crisis has triggered international alarm and partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, a blast of black seawater that pulverized Japan's northeastern coastline. The quake was one of the strongest recorded in history.