japanese nuclear plant 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TOKYO - A rise in radiation halted the clean-up of radioactive water at Japan's Fukushimi nuclear power station on Saturday hours after it got under way, a fresh setback to efforts to restore control over the quake-stricken plant.
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The power plant has been leaking radiation into the atmosphere ever since the March 11 quake and tsunami and both China and South Korea have expressed concern over the possibility of further leaks into the sea.
Tokyo Electric Power Company , the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said it expected to resume the clean-up within a week.
The plan hit a new hurdle as Japan marked 100 days since the earthquake
and tsunami left left nearly 24,000 dead or missing and knocked out
cooling systems at the plant. Buddhist memorial services were held
throughout the country on the day when the bereaved traditionally seek
closure from grief.
A statement issued by the utility, known as Tepco, said the suspension
was prompted by a faster than expected rise in radiation in a part of
the system intended to absorb caesium.
"At the moment, we haven't specified the reason," a Tepco spokesman told
a news conference. "So we can't say when we can resume the operation.
But I'd say it's not something that would take weeks."
The official said teams working at the plant believed the radiation rise
could be linked either to sludge flowing into the machinery absorbing
caesium or a monitoring error caused by nearby pipes carrying
But a resumption, he said, was critical to deal with the highly
radioactive water. Officials say 110,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 40
Olympic swimming pools -- is stored at the plant, 240 k.m. northeast of
"Unless we can resume the operation within a week, we will have problems
in disposing of the contaminated water," the official said.
"But if this is caused by the reasons we are thinking, we can resume the operation within a week."
The official said Tepco for the moment foresaw no delay in its overall
plan to bring the Fukushima Daiichi plant fully under control by the end
of the year.
The plan, derided by some critics as too optimistic, calls for a shutdown of its three unstable reactors by January 2012.Storing contaminated water
The company is fighting against time as the plant is running out of
places to store the contaminated water. Amounts quickly accumulate as
the company pumps in vast supplies to cool three reactors that went into
meltdown after the tsunami disabled cooling systems.
The cleanup operation is one of many steps to stabilize the reactors. It
got under way only late on Friday after being delayed by a series of
Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, addressing a news conference, said he had
told Tepco to resume the cleanup operation while upholding safety
standards, but set no deadlines.
He said government inspections showed all nuclear power plants in Japan
had adequate safety measures against severe accidents and called on
local governments to give the green light to restarting reactors.
Routine maintenance and public concern since the Fukushima accident have left only 19 of 54 reactors still functioning.
"Power shortages are a big problem for the economy. I would like to seek
the understanding of people who live near plants so we can restart
power plants that are confirmed to be safe," he said.
Nuclear operators always seek local government approval in recognition
of the importance of support from residents near the plant -- though
such backing is not legally required.
Opposition to nuclear power is growing, with one survey this week saying
three-quarters of Japanese voters wanting to see a gradual phase out of
The crisis has prompted the government to go back to "scratch" in considering the future of nuclear power.
Mainichi Shimbun reported on Saturday that Kunio Hiramatsu, mayor of
Osaka, Japan's second largest city, said he would make a proposal to
Kansai Electric Power , of which the city is a top shareholder, that the
company eventually phase out nuclear power.