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Japan nuclear update: Repairing crack to stop radioactive water leak

The crack in a maintenance pit at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan is the source of radioactive iodine appearing in seawater near the plant for more than a week.

In this photo released by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., a TEPCO employee points at a crack newly discovered in a maintenance pit on the edge of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear nuclear power plant in Japan. The crack was apparently caused by the March 11 earthquake and may have been leaking since then.

Tokyo Electric Power Co./AP

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Japan's crisis within a crisis – severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on the country's northeast coast – may have taken a tiny step closer to resolution on Saturday with the discovery of a crack in a maintenance pit at the plant.

The crack has been identified as the source of radioactive iodine that has been appearing in seawater near the plant for more than a week, according to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which notes that workers at the stricken facility are trying to repair the crack with concrete.

But it also raises a question of how many more cracks of similar size have yet to be discovered as workers struggle to assess the full extent of damage to the plant as well as try to stem the release of radioactivity from damaged reactors and spent-fuel pools.

Japan Fukushima nuclear crisis: A timeline of key events

The discovery comes at a time of increasing frustration among some residents in areas stricken by the March 11 magnitude 9 earthquake and the resultant tsunami. They argue that while dealing with the plant is important, the government has been more focused on resolving the nuclear crisis than on dealing with the enormous number of people struggling in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami.

In an interview with the Associated Press, one woman visiting her parents in a shelter in Natori, some 50 miles north of the plant, said, "The government had been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims. Both deserve attention."

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