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Japan steps up cooling operation. This is from BBC.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

In this context, to work more intensely on cooling operations. The idea is to go "one step higher" on the scale of effort.

Same idea in "to crank up" (intensify).

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to step something up means "to increase the amount, speed, or intensity of something."

Police decided to step up security plans for the game.

In the context of the reported sentence, it means they are cooling the reactor more (to increase the amount, or intensity).

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to step up means to stand against a challenge.

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