|A fire truck sprays water at No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima prefecture in this still image taken from a video by the Self Defence Force Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit on March 18, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
TOKYO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Self-Defense Force and firefighting personnel resumed shooting water over the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant on Saturday afternoon, in an effort to cool down the reactor and overheating spent fuel pools.
A spokesperson for Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the faltering Daiichi facility, said a total of 1,260 tons of water will be discharged over the next seven hours.
An unmanned vehicle with a 22-meter high platform was utilized in the efforts to avoid personnel coming into contact with excessive amounts of radiation.
The Tokyo Fire Department's special "hyper rescue team" also joined the SDF in spraying water to cool down the No. 3 reactor and the combined effort discharged 60 tons of water in 20 minutes, in the first phase of the operation on Saturday morning.
Efforts to cool the reactor were suspended as the TEPCO workers tried to reconnect electricity to the plant by using outside power sources.
TEPCO said Saturday that reconnection of the No. 2 reactor is expected to be completed during the day, but it may take some time before cooling devices can be reactivated as a lot of damage may have been caused to electrical systems when the tsunami hit the plant following Friday's 9.0 magnitude quake that struck the region.
The utility said that at the time of the quake, the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at the Daiichi facility were the only ones operating and shutdown automatically as they are supposed to.
But due to lost cooling functions in the reactors some of the cores are believed to have partially melted.
The buildings housing the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 reactors have been severely damaged, TEPCO said and fuel pools in the reactors have been left uncovered.
In addition, the No. 2 reactor's containment vessel suffered damage to its pressure-suppression chamber, TEPCO said.
TEPCO's office in Fukushima said that following the initial cooling attempts, radiation levels fell slightly 500 meters northwest of the No. 3 reactor.
The plant's operator said that post-operation readings taken as of 02:50 p.m. local time on Friday stood at 3,339 microsieverts per hour, compared to 3,484 microsieverts at 01:50 p.m. local time, before the work began.
The government has set an exclusion zone covering areas within a 20-km radius of the plant and has urged people within 20 to 30- km to stay indoors.
The Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency raised the severity level of the crisis-hit reactors to 5 from 4 on an international scale Friday, the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.
Special Report: Massive quake shakes Japan