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Nuclear Alert Level Raised, Official Says Response Should Have Been Quicker

5:55 p.m. ET | Photo Essay: Destruction in Japan

3:50 p.m. ET | Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, announced its powerline had reached the plant and could supply electricity, raising hopes that it could restore failed cooling systems for the reactors.

3:00 p.m. ET | The NewsHour look at what the international scale means and some of the worst nuclear accidents in history, including Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

2:15 p.m. ET| U.S. officials are working to ease concerns in California over possible spread of radiation after monitors in Sacramento detected slight amounts of radioactive material. The levels are reportedly far below those that could cause harmful health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency is adding additional monitors in Alaska and in the Pacific, including in Hawaii and Guam. President Obama reiterated in his address Thursday that the U.S. was not in danger from the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

8:30 a.m. ET | Japan has raised the nuclear alert level at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to five out of a highest of seven on the international scale for such incidents. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was considered a seven-point situation; Three Mile Island in 1979 was also rated five. Until Friday, Japan had considered it a four. Officials insist that radiation levels are safe outside of the 12-mile radius of the plant, but the United States has maintained a 50-mile precaution zone for evacuation of Americans.

Japan is also planning to bring in 150 tons of boron from South Korea and France as a precaution against the spread of uranium, should it begin to melt. Efforts to connect a power line to restart the facility’s cooling system also continued Friday. U.S. nuclear officials have warned the crisis could take weeks to resolve.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that the government had not been prepared for the unprecedented scale of the disaster and acknowledged, “In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster.”

The confirmed death toll has reached 6,500, with more than 10,000 still missing and continued snow virtually eliminating the chances of finding more survivors. Many are still in makeshift shelters, and homes are without electricity or running water. The airport at Sendai has re-opened, raising hopes that relief flights could be increased in the affected areas. Fuel shortages, and damaged roads and rails, have compounded the immense difficulty of reaching the victims of the quake. U.S. military personnel have been asked to assist in the relief effort, although there are no flights near the Fukushima plant due to fears of radiation.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan delivered a speech in which he said Japan must persevered through the crisis. “We will rebuild Japan from scratch,” he said. “We must all share this resolve.”

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