In another day of progress and setbacks, a pool holding spent nuclear fuel heated up to around the boiling point, a nuclear safety official said. With water bubbling away, there is a risk that more radioactive steam could spew out. "We cannot leave this alone and we must take care of it as quickly as possible," said the official, Hidehiko Nishiyama.
It wasn't clear if crews had to retreat to stop work hooking up electrical systems and checking machinery to power up cooling systems.
People at Fukushima city's main evacuation center waited in long lines for bowls of hot noodle soup. A truck delivered toilet paper and blankets. Many among the 1,400 people living in the crowded gymnasium came from communities near the nuclear plant and worry about radiation and weary of the daily routine of the displaced.
"It was an act of God," said Yoshihiro Amano, a grocery store owner whose house is 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the reactors. "It won't help anything to get angry. But we are worried. We don't know if it will takes days, months or decades to go home. Maybe never. We are just starting to be able to think ahead to that."
Public sentiment is such that Fukushima's governor rejected a meeting offered by the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, the utility that runs the nuclear plant.
"What is most important is for TEPCO to end the crisis with maximum effort. So I rejected the offer," Gov. Yuhei Sato said on national broadcaster NHK. "Considering the anxiety, anger and exasperation being felt by people in Fukushima, there is just no way for me to accept their apology."
The nuclear crisis has added a broader dimension to the disaster unleashed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that pulverized the northeast coast, leaving more than 9,000 dead by official count and twice that in police estimates.
Three of Japan's marquee companies - Sony Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. - announced halts to production at plants in Japan. The reason is a shortage of parts - a result of so many ruined factories in the disaster area.
Fears about radiation are reaching well beyond those living near Fukushima and the 430,000 displaced by the earthquake and tsunami to encompass large segments of Japan. Traces of radiation are being found in vegetables and raw milk from a swath of farmland, forcing a government ban on sales from those areas.
Seawater near the Fukushima plant is showing elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium, prompting the government to test seafood.