Japan scrambles to pull nuclear plant back from brink

(Reuters) – Operators of a quake-crippled nuclear plant in Japan said they would try again on Thursday to use military helicopters to douse overheating reactors and avert a disaster, but U.S. officials warned that radiation levels may be too high to allow repairs.

While officials scrambled to contain the nuclear crisis with a variety of patchwork fixes, health experts said panic over radiation leaks from the Daiichi plant may divert attention from potentially worse threats to survivors of Friday’s 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami, such as the cold or access to fresh water.

The head of the world’s nuclear watchdog, meanwhile, said while it was not accurate to say things were “out of control” in Japan, the situation was “very serious,” with core damage to three units at the plant.

A steady stream of gloomy warnings and reports on the Japan crisis from experts and officials around the world triggered something of a meltdown in U.S. markets, with all three major U.S. stock indexes slumping over 2 pct on fears of slower worldwide growth.

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