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Posts Tagged ‘The Tokyo Electric Power Company’

Japan stops nuclear plant leak; crisis far from over

Posted by Admin on April 6, 2011

fukushima reactor #2 with waterpumper, there i...

Fukushima Reactor 2

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110406/wl_nm/us_japan

By Mayumi Negishi and Yoko Nishikawa Mayumi Negishi And Yoko Nishikawa 1 hr 55 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea on Wednesday from a crippled nuclear plant and acknowledged it could have given more information to neighboring countries about contamination in the ocean.

Despite the breakthrough in plugging the leak at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, engineers need to pump 11.5 million liters (11,500 tons) of contaminated water back into the ocean because they have run out of storage space at the facility. The water was used to cool over-heated fuel rods.

Nuclear experts said the damaged reactors were far from being under control almost a month after they were hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said it had stemmed the leak using liquid glass at one of the plants six reactors.

“The leaks were slowed yesterday after we injected a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent and it has now stopped,” a TEPCO spokesman told Reuters.

Engineers had been struggling to stop leaks from reactor No. 2, even using sawdust and newspapers.

Neighbors South Korea and China are getting concerned about the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and the radioactive water being pumped into the sea, newspapers reported.

“We are instructing the trade and foreign ministries to work better together so that detailed explanations are supplied especially to neighboring countries,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference on Wednesday.

Experts insisted the low-level radioactive water to be pumped into the ocean posed no health hazard to people.

“The original amount of radioactivity is very low, and when you dilute this with a huge body of water, the final levels will be even lower than legal limits,” said Pradip Deb, senior lecturer in Medical Radiations at the School of Medical Sciences, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.

Workers are struggling to restart cooling pumps — which recycle the water — in four damaged reactors.

Until those are fixed, they must pump in water to prevent overheating and meltdowns, but have run out of storage capacity for the seawater when it becomes contaminated.

Radioactive iodine detected in the sea has been recorded at 4,800 times the legal limit, but has since fallen to about 600 times the limit. The water remaining in the reactors has radiation five million times legal limits.

“What they are going to have to release is likely to be highly radioactive. The situation could politically be very ugly in a week,” said Murray Jennex at San Diego State University, who specializes in nuclear containment.

A floating tanker is being converted to hold contaminated seawater and is due to arrive at the plant site by April 16. TEPCO also plans to build tanks to hold radioactive water.

COOLING REACTORS KEY

Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and thousands homeless, and rocked the world’s third-largest economy.

It will likely take months to finally cool down the reactors and years to dismantle those that have been damaged. TEPCO has said it will decommission four of the six reactors.

An opposition lawmaker from Fukushima told reporters antipathy in the area would make it difficult to resume operations at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant, where operations have been halted since March 11.

The two Fukushima plants together provide four percent of Japan’s electric power.

“Nuclear power plants can run only with local consent. I see it as being quite difficult to resume operations,” said Masayoshi Yoshino of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Concerned over a possible buildup of hydrogen gas in reactor No. 1, engineers will inject nitrogen gas into the reactor on Wednesday night to prevent an explosion, TEPCO said.

Hydrogen explosions ripped through reactors 1 and 3 early in the crisis, spreading high levels of radiation into the air.

The key to bringing the reactors under control is the extent of damage to the plant’s cooling system, said analysts.

In a sign the cooling systems may be severely damaged, the Sankei newspaper reported on Wednesday the government and TEPCO were considering building new cooling systems for three reactors to operate from outside the reactor buildings.

Kyodo news agency quoted a government source as saying authorities were also considering covering damaged reactors with special sheets to halt radiation leaks. But they could not be installed until September due to high levels of radiation.

“To put the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in perspective, Chernobyl involved a single operating reactor core,” said Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, a U.S. radioactive waste watchdog.

“Fukushima Daiichi now involves three reactors in various stages of meltdown and containment breach, and multiple (spent fuel storage) pools at risk of fire,” said Kamps.

Kamps said the spent fuel rod pools, which are on the roof of the damaged reactors, alone have more irradiated nuclear fuel than that which exploded and burned at Chernobyl.

MOVES TO AVERT BLACKOUTS

The world’s costliest natural disaster has hit Japan’s economy, left a damages bill which may top $300 billion, and forced the heavily indebted country to plan an extra budget.

Rolling power blackouts have hit global supply chains, with the world’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, idling local plants and saying it will suspend some U.S. plants also.

Japan is considering ordering TEPCO’s big power users to achieve 25 percent cuts in peak summer usage, said a Trade Ministry official. TEPCO shares went lower on Wednesday after hitting a 60-year low the previous day. ($1=84 Japanese yen)

(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Scott DiSavino in New York and Tan Ee Lyn in Singapore; Writing by Michael Perry and Paul Eckert; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Robert Birsel)

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Radiation inside Japan nuclear plant rises sharply

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110327/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

By YURI KAGEYAMA and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Yuri Kageyama And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press 58 mins ago

TOKYOEmergency workers struggling to pump contaminated water from Japan’s stricken nuclear complex fled one of the troubled reactors Sunday after reporting a huge spike in radioactivity, with levels 10 million times higher than normal in the reactor’s cooling system, officials said.

The numbers were so high that the worker measuring radiation levels in the complex’s Unit 2 withdrew before taking a second reading, officials said.

It was not immediately clear, however, how long workers were exposed to the highly radioactive water or how long the levels had been that high at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

But it came as officials acknowledged there was contaminated water in all four of the complex’s most troubled reactors, and as airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour — four times the limit deemed safe by the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita said.

Officials say they still don’t know where the radioactive water is coming from, though government spokesman Yukio Edano has said some is “almost certainly” seeping from a cracked reactor core in one of the units.

While the discovery of the high radiation levels — and the evacuation of workers from one reactor unit — again delayed efforts to bring the deeply troubled complex under control, Edano insisted the situation had partially stabilized.

“We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse,” he told reporters Sunday evening. “But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we’ve expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we’ll continue to repair the damage.”

The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water has been a major setback in the mission to get the plant’s crucial cooling systems operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The magnitude-9 quake off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11 triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant, complicating an immense humanitarian disaster.

The death toll from the twin disasters stood at 10,668 Sunday, with more than 16,574 people missing, police said. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.

Workers have been scrambling to remove the radioactive water from the four units and find a safe place to store it, TEPCO officials said.

On Sunday night, Minoru Ogoda of Japan’s nuclear safety agency said each unit could have hundreds of tons of radioactive water.

The protracted nuclear crisis has spurred concerns about the safety of food and water in Japan, which is a prime source of seafood for some countries. Radiation has been found in food, seawater and even tap water supplies in Tokyo.

Just outside the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week — but that number had climbed to 1,850 times normal by the weekend.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a nuclear safety official, said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

Experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency said the ocean would quickly dilute the worst contamination.

Up to 600 people are working inside the plant in shifts. Nuclear safety officials say workers’ time inside the crippled units is closely monitored to minimize their exposure to radioactivity, but two workers were hospitalized Thursday when they suffered burns after stepping into contaminated water. They are to be released from the hospital Monday.

Edano has urged TEPCO to be more transparent about the potential dangers after the safety agency revealed the plant operator was aware of high radiation levels in the air in Unit 3 several days before the two workers suffered burns there.

A top TEPCO official acknowledged Sunday it could take a long time to completely clean up the complex.

“We cannot say at this time how many months or years it will take,” TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said, insisting the main goal now is to cool the reactors.

A poll, meanwhile, showed that support for Japan’s prime minister has risen as the administration tackles the disasters.

The public opinion poll conducted over the weekend by Kyodo News agency found that approval of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet rose to 28.3 percent after sinking below 20 percent in February, before the earthquake and tsunami.

Last month’s low approval led to speculation that Kan’s days were numbered. While the latest figure is still low, it suggests he is making some gains with voters.

About 58 percent of respondents in the nationwide telephone survey of 1,011 people said they approved of the government’s handling of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but a similar number criticized its handling of the nuclear crisis.

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Nuclear crisis deepens in disaster-struck Japan

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami damage-Fukushima Dai-Ni...

Earthquake and Tsunami damage to Fukushima reactors

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110316/wl_asia_afp/japanquake

by Hiroshi Hiyama Hiroshi Hiyama Wed Mar 16, 3:44 am ET

SENDAI, Japan (AFP) – Japanese crews grappling with the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl suspended work due to radiation fears Wednesday as tens of thousands in need after the quake and tsunami desperately appealed for help.

The jittery nation, living in dread of a nuclear catastrophe after Friday’s twin disaster, was also hit by a strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake that swayed buildings in Tokyo, fraying already jangled nerves.

The official toll of the dead and missing after the quake and tsunami flattened Japan’s northeast coast has topped 11,000, with 3,676 confirmed killed, police said.

However, after the Tokyo stock exchange’s biggest two-day sell-off in 24 years sparked a global market rout, the headline Nikkei share index closed up 5.68 percent on bargain hunting.

The Bank of Japan pumped another 3.5 trillion yen ($43.3 billion) into the financial system, adding to trillions spent this week since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and towering tsunami crippled a large swathe of the economy.

The evacuation order at the Fukushima nuclear power plant came as a tall white cloud was seen billowing high into the sky over the stricken complex.

“Around 10:40 am (0140 GMT) we ordered the evacuation of workers… due to the rise in (radioactivity) data around the gate” of the ageing plant, a nuclear safety agency official said at a televised news conference.

Several hours later there was no news on whether the crews had been allowed back into the plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Before the evacuation order, crews at Fukushima — who have been hailed as heroes — contended with a new fire and feared damage to the vessel containing one of the plant’s six reactor cores.

A Japanese military helicopter was on its way to dump water on the stricken nuclear plant to help contain the overheating.

The containment vessel around the core of reactor number three may have suffered damage, and the “likeliest possibility” for the white cloud was steam escaping from the vessel, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The number-three reactor was hit by a blast Monday that tore off the outer structure of the reactor building.

Fire crews fought a new blaze early Wednesday at reactor number four, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said, but it was later extinguished.

Engineers have been desperately battling a feared meltdown at the 40-year-old plant since the earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems and fuel rods began overheating.

There have now been four explosions and two fires at the complex, with four out of its six reactors in trouble.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority said the disaster now equated to a six on the seven-point international scale for nuclear accidents, ranking the crisis second only in gravity to the level-seven Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

But Yukiya Amano, the Japanese chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, insisted Tuesday there was no comparison to the Chernobyl crisis, when radiation spewed across Europe.

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said that unlike Chernobyl, the Fukushima reactors have primary containment vessels and had also shut down automatically when the earthquake hit, so there was no chain reaction going on.

The full tragedy of the quake and tsunami was meanwhile playing out as more details emerge of the staggering death and devastation in the worst-hit northeast.

The small fishing town of Minamisanriku, for example, is believed to be missing about half of its 17,000 people.

“Ten of my relatives are missing. I haven’t been able to get in contact with them,” 54-year-old Minamisanriku resident Tomeko Sato, who lost her house in the disaster, told AFP.

Millions have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless, stoically coping with freezing cold and wet conditions in the northeast.

Aomori governor Shingo Mimura said he desperately needed central government assistance to get hold of oil and relief supplies.

“We cannot possibly get out to rescue survivors nor reconstruct the devastated areas without oil. Just a tiny bit of oil for today can protect lives,” he said.

“There are a variety of problems, such as shortages of water, food and blankets as well as difficulties in delivering supplies,” added Ryu Matsumoto, state minister in charge of disaster management.

“We will try to figure out how to transport supplies also via air or sea.”

With nerves on edge across the world’s third-biggest economy and beyond, people across Asia have been stripping shelves of essentials for fear of a major emission of radiation from the power plant on the east coast.

The government has warned that panic buying in towns and cities that have not been directly affected by the twin disasters could hurt its ability to provide aid to the devastated areas.

Edano, who is the chief cabinet secretary, said Japan as a whole was amply provided with fuel but stressed that petrol and kerosene were “very short” in the ravaged northeast.

“Those who do not live in disaster-hit areas, please do not buy (fuel) in bulk. We have enough to meet the nationwide demand,” he said, adding that the government was doing its all to get fuel to the north.

The normally heaving streets and subways of Tokyo were quieter than usual on Wednesday morning. The number of people sporting paper face masks has shot up, although the masks offer no real protection against radiation.

Radiation levels in the capital’s vast urban sprawl of 30 million people have see-sawed without ever reaching harmful levels, according to the government.

But it has warned people living up to 10 kilometres (six miles) beyond a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant to stay indoors. More than 200,000 people have already been evacuated from the zone.

President Barack Obama, who has dispatched a naval flotilla led by a US aircraft carrier to aid in the quake-tsunami rescue operation, said he was “deeply worried” about the potential human cost of the disaster in Japan.

The government in Tokyo said it was ready to draft in more help from the 49,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan.

Obama also vowed to “further improve” the safety of US atomic facilities, while several European nations announced reviews of their own nuclear installations and Germany temporarily shut down seven reactors.

Hoax emails and text messages warning of radiation drifting south from Japan have set off a run on essentials such as bottled water and fresh milk in places as far afield as the Philippines.

China said it was stepping up checks of travellers and goods inbound from Japan for possible radiation contamination.

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