Russia reinforces radiation control after Japan quake

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Russia on Saturday was closely monitoring radiation levels in its Far Eastern regions amid fears of a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan following a devastating earthquake, officials said.

Test results have so far been normal and a tsunami alert for the Kuril Island chain has been cancelled, the emergencies ministry said on Saturday.

"In connection with a radiation leak at a nuclear power station in Japan, control over background radiation in the Sakhalin region has been reinforced," the ministry said in a statement, adding that test results had been normal so far.

Background radiation levels were also being watched in the country's other Far Eastern regions such as Primorye, Kamchatka and Khabarovsk, ministry spokesman Sergei Viktorov told AFP.

Japan's nuclear authorities warned Saturday that quake-hit atomic plant Fukushima No. 1, about 250 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo, "may be experiencing a nuclear meltdown", media said.

After the deadly quake struck in Japan on Friday, Russia placed the Kuril Island chain on high alert, ordering the evacuation of 11,000 people and suspending economic activity on the islands.

Tsunami waves on Friday reached the archipelago's southernmost islands that are at the heart of Russia's long-running territorial dispute with Japan, with waves on Kunashir Island reaching three metres (10 feet) at one point.

The tsunami alert for the island chain was cancelled earlier Saturday, officials said, adding the islands sustained no damage.

Russia was quick to offer its assistance to Tokyo following the natural disaster despite a recent flare-up in bilateral tensions exacerbated by President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Kunashir in November, a first by a Kremlin leader.

© 2011 AFP

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