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President Of TEPCO, Owner Of Damaged Japan Nuclear Plant, Hospitalized In Tokyo With High Blood Pressure

Japan Tepco

By MARI YAMAGUCHI   03/30/11 12:31 AM ET   AP

TOKYO -- The president of the beleaguered Tokyo utility company that owns the tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant leaking radiation in the northeast has been hospitalized with high blood pressure, the company said Wednesday.

Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., had not been seen for nearly two weeks after appearing at the news conference two days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Shimizu, 66, was taken Tuesday to a Tokyo hospital after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure, TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said.

Confirmation of his hospitalization comes amid speculation about his health after he disappeared from sight. Company Vice President Sakae Muto has appeared regularly at news briefings instead. TEPCO officials had been deflecting questions about Shimizu's health, saying he had been "resting" at company headquarters.

It was the latest crisis to beset TEPCO, still struggling to stabilize the dangerously overheated power plant and to contain the radiation seeping from the complex and into the sea and soil nearby.

The six-unit facility has been leaking since the tsunami slammed into the coast, knocking out power and backup systems crucial to keeping temperatures down inside the plant's reactors.

Residents within 12 miles (20 kilometers) have been evacuated, while those up to 19 miles (30 kilometers) have been urged to leave voluntarily as radiation has made its way into vegetables, raw milk and water.

Last week, tap water as far away as Tokyo, 140 miles (220 kilometers) to the south, contained levels of cancer-causing iodine-131 considered unsafe for infants.

On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater outside the plant was found to contain 3,335 times the usual amount of radioactive iodine – the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean.

The amount of iodine-131 found offshore some 300 yards (meters) south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a "concern," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official.

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Filed by Adam Goldberg  |