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Radioactive waste dumped into ocean at Fukushima plant

TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Co. began dumping more than 11,000 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Monday, mostly to make room in storage containers for increasing amounts of far more contaminated runoff.

The water, most of it to be released over two days, contains about 100 times the legal limit of radiation, Tokyo Electric said. The more contaminated water has about 10,000 times the legal limit.

The effort would help workers clearing radioactive water from the turbine buildings at the damaged reactors, making it less dangerous to reach some of the most crucial controls for their cooling systems, which were knocked out by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan on March 11. The hopes are that the cooling systems can be revived and bring the plant back under control.

But the pumping effort is not expected to halt, or even alter, the gushing leak from a large crack in a six-foot-deep pit next to the seawater intake pipes near the No. 2 reactor. The leak, discovered Saturday, has been spewing an estimated seven tons of highly radioactive water an hour directly into the ocean; attempts to trace and plug it have so far failed.

Tokyo Electric, the plant’s operator, has been pumping hundreds of tons of water into four of the plant’s six reactors to cool nuclear fuel in the cores of three and in spent-fuel storage pools.
—Ken Ijichi, The New York Times

Texas Instruments to buy National Semiconductor

SAN FRANCISCO — Texas Instruments said Monday that it planned to acquire National Semiconductor for $6.5 billion in a deal that places a big bet on the increasing need to translate the physical world of humans into the digital form of computers and then back again.

Both companies specialize in making “analog” processors, a particular kind of computer chip that converts data from the real world — temperature, light intensity, dust concentrations, shifting magnetic fields — into digital data that a computer can interpret and then back again, if need be, into visual or aural information that a human can understand.

Such chips are critical components in devices like cameras and phones, but they are crucial in a host of other electronic devices and sensors used in industry and medicine. They are frequently custom designed and carry high profit margins compared with commodity computer chips. Demand for the chips has grown as the number of devices needing sensors has grown.

—Matt Richtel, The New York Times

Mens’ basketball ratings up

More people watched the NCAA men’s basketball tournament through Saturday’s Final Four than in any year since 2005, which makes sense. For the first time, four networks — CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV — have been carrying the tournament, instead of just CBS, as a result of a new CBS-Turner deal that goes through 2014.

Through Saturday, an average 9.9 million viewers watched each game, up from 9 million last year and the best in six years. The Final Four averaged 15.4 million viewers, tying last year for the best since 2005, according to Nielsen. Connecticut’s victory over Kentucky was seen by 16.7 million viewers.

Three of the four networks — CBS, TNT and TBS — are widely distributed and popular general-interest networks that appeal to broad audiences. Some viewers more accustomed to Men of a Certain Age on TNT or Conan on TBS than college basketball may have given the tournament a try.
 ­—Richard Sandomir, The New York Times