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Worst Is Probably Over in Japan, U.S. Energy Secretary Says

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the worst is probably over in Japan as efforts to stabilize the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant have had some success.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the crippled 40-year-old plant, reconnected a 1.5-kilometer (1 mile) power cable yesterday to unit No. 2 in an effort to revive cooling systems knocked out after the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami. Work continues to prevent a meltdown at the plant 220 kilometers (140 miles) north of Tokyo, and the utility connected an electric cable to the No. 5 reactor, Kyodo News reported today.

“I think with each passing hour, each passing day, things are more under control,” Chu said today on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “And so, step by step, they are making very good progress.”

The U.S. remains concerned about unit No. 2 because of higher radiation levels, which may be an indication of a breach in the containment vessel, Chu said in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant following the March 11 earthquake is unlikely to be resolved quickly, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said in Tokyo.

Diablo Canyon Plant

Chu said U.S. nuclear plants such as PG&E Corp. (PCG)’s Diablo Canyon in California are built to withstand more than the largest estimated ground motion at their site. The California plant would endure an earthquake of about 7.5 on the Richter scale, “well above” the maximum estimate of about 6.2 possible at that site, the energy secretary said.

“A 9 does not come from the type of faults around that reactor site,” Chu said.

The Obama administration will review all nuclear reactors in the U.S. following the Japanese disaster and will verify the adequacy of evacuation plans, Chu also said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The U.S. has 23 reactors with similar designs to the Japanese plant at the center of the crisis, he said.

“The people in the United States, U.S. territories, are in no danger” from radiation from the plant in Japan, Chu said on Fox. “It’s unlikely they will be exposed to danger.”

Also today, Democratic U.S. Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Frank Pallone of New Jersey said in a statement they asked the Food and Drug Administration to explain how it will ensure that radioactive food and other agricultural products don’t enter the U.S. from Japan.

Edano said radiation above government limits was found in milk and spinach produced near the plant struck by the earthquake.

-- with assistance from Sophia Yan in Washington. Editors: Laurie Asseo, Ann Hughey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at kklimasinska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ann Hughey at ahughey@bloomberg.net

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