The government's nuclear agency said that the injection of a huge amount of coolant water into the damaged No 1 reactor core has yielded positive signs, with both the temperature and pressure inside the reactor vessel falling.
The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), yesterday began raising the amount of water from 6 tonnes per hour to 10 tonnes in preparation for flooding the reactor's primary containment vessel to cool the fuel in a stable manner.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said TEPCO initially planned to increase the amount of water to 14 tonnes per hour, but decided to keep pouring 10 tonnes per hour so as not to cause abnormalities, Kyodo news agency reported.
As TEPCO workers battled to stabilise the radiation-leaking plant, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said that the industrial output stood at 82.9 against the base of 100. This was a drop of 15.3 per cent from the previous month.
The decline was the sharpest since record-keeping began in January 1953. It also far exceeded the previous record of 8.6 per cent logged in February 2009 following the Lehman shock.
The sharp drop is due to the damage to factories caused by the natural disaster, disrupted supply chains and suspension of auto production. All 16 sectors in the ministry's survey marked falls.
Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano called the industrial data shocking and added that the quake had directly hit manufacturing bases, badly affecting Japan's corporate output, national broadcaster NHK reported.
Yosano said people are working hard to restore supply chains, and that they should be back to normal sooner than originally expected.
The ministry expects the index to rise in April and May as factories gradually resume production in tsunami-hit areas where nearly 30,000 people were killed or unaccounted for.