BY VOA NEWS – The operators of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant say they are making preparations to send workers inside the building housing the number one reactor for the first time in almost two months.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company said Monday it needs to send workers into the building to install a new water level gauge and cooling system. No one has been in the building since a hydrogen explosion damaged it on March 12, the day after the massive earthquake and tsunami that destroyed cooling systems at all six of the plant’s reactors.

TEPCO has already had robots inside the building to measure radiation levels. It says the next step is to install an air filtration system that will reduce radiation levels inside the building by as much as 95 percent so that the workers can go inside.

TEPCO said it continues to detect elevated radiation levels in the ocean near the plant. Levels Saturday at one location near the number two reactor were more than 3,000 times the legal limit, a 30 percent increase from the day before. However the company says it does believe there is a new leak of radioactive water into the sea.

The Jiji news agency said the government now believes it will be at least mid-May before residents of a 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the plant will be able to visit their homes to collect personal items. Officials had hoped to begin the visits after a week-long holiday ending Thursday.

During the holiday, volunteers have been flooding into districts and municipalities that were hardest-hit by the earthquake and tsunami to help with clean-up and reconstruction efforts. The Asahi newspaper said some districts have received more volunteers than they can accommodate.

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