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Officials are hoping tanks at the complex will be able to hold the water, or that new tanks can be trucked in. On Tuesday, officials from the Nuclear Safety Commission, an expert panel of nuclear watchdogs, said other possibilities include digging a storage pit for the contaminated water, recycling it back into the reactors or even pumping it to an offshore tanker.

The latest mishap came Tuesday when three workers trying to connect a pump outside the Unit 3 reactor were splashed by radioactive water that gushed from a pipe. Though they were wearing suits meant to be waterproof and protect against high levels of radiation, nuclear safety official Hidehiko Nishiyama said the men were soaked to their underwear with the contaminated water.

They quickly washed it off and were not injured, officials said.

Last week, two workers were hospitalized with burns after they were issued ankle-high protective boots to walk into highly radioactive knee-high water.

Such incidents have led to increased criticism of the utility company.

Nikkei, Japan‘s top business newspaper, called it “outrageous” that Tepco had been slow to release information about trenches outside the reactors filled with contaminated water.

On Monday, Mr. Edano blasted Tepco for a major miscalculation that saw company officials announce a wildly high radiation level at the plant over the weekend, only to back away a half-day later, saying it had been an error. “This sort of mistake is not something that can be forgiven,” he said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, meanwhile, reiterated in a speech to parliament that Japan was grappling with its worst problems since World War II.

“This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan” in decades, said Mr. Kan, dressed in one of the blue work jackets that have become ubiquitous among bureaucrats since the tsunami. He said the crises remained unpredictable, but added, “We will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert.”

Mr. Kan has faced increasing criticism from opposition lawmakers over the handling of a nuclear disaster stretching into a third week.

“We cannot let you handle the crisis,” lawmaker Yosuke Isozaki said in parliament. “We cannot let you be in charge of Japan‘s crisis management.”

Associated Press writers Shino Yuasa in Tokyo and Jonathan Fahey in New York contributed to this report.