Stick a fork in it - It's done!

SUBHEAD: “I don’t know if we can ever enter the No. 3 reactor building again,” Hikaru Kuroda, the company’s chief of nuclear facility management.

By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Yu-huay Sun & Wes Goodman on 2 April 2011 for Bloomberg - 

Image above: Aerial photo of wrecked Fukushima Reactor #3. From (

Tokyo Electric Power Company will try injecting a special polymer into a leaking pit at its stricken nuclear plant after a concrete plug failed to stop radioactive water from draining into the nearby sea.

Tokyo Electric will inject the polymer through a pipe connected to the pit, and is working to devise alternatives if that effort also should fail, the company said at a press conference that ended early today in Tokyo. The pit, used as storage for power cables near reactor No. 2, is cracked and leaking radioactive water.

Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, is preparing to infuse nitrogen into reactors to reduce the threat of a hydrogen explosion, and is connecting power cables to some cooling pumps as it tries to contain the spread of radiation and avert a meltdown 23 days after a crippling earthquake and tsunami.

A company executive said today he isn’t optimistic about the prospect of containing damage at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor.

“I don’t know if we can ever enter the No. 3 reactor building again,” Hikaru Kuroda, the company’s chief of nuclear facility management, said at a press conference.

Workers must continue to cool the radioactive fuel rods with water to avert more damage, said John Price, a nuclear consultant and professor at Australia’s Monash University. “If it’s leaking or being exhausted as steam, then they have to keep putting it in.”

Radioactive Seawater
Radiation in contaminated seawater near the Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant was measured at more than 1,000 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said yesterday in a statement. Exposure to that level for an hour would trigger nausea, and four hours might lead to death within two months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday ordered Tepco to increase its monitoring of seawater near the No. 2 reactor after the leaks led to a rise in radiation, agency Deputy Director Hidehiko Nishiyama said. Above-normal levels of radioactive iodine were detected in seawater 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the plant, the agency said.

About 10 centimeters (4 inches) to 20 centimeters of radioactive water was found in the leaking pit, which is 1.2 meters by 1.9 meters across and 2 meters deep, and had a crack about 20 centimeters wide, Takashi Kurita, a company spokesman, told reporters at a briefing at Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters.

Plugging the Leak
Tokyo Electric tried to plug the crack by filling the pit with concrete yesterday, Junichi Matsumoto, another company official, said at a later press conference. Water in the pit was found to have 10,000 times the normal level of toxic iodine 131, he said.

The pit is at a different site from the trenches where the company found contaminated water earlier, Susumu Tsuzuki, a Tepco nuclear facility maintenance official, told reporters.

General Electric Co. (GE) Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt will meet officials from Tepco as the utility struggles to stabilize its damaged reactors, designed by the U.S. company.

Immelt is traveling to Japan “to meet with employees, partners and customers including Tepco,” as the utility is known, Deirdre Latour, a GE spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Reactors at the crippled plant are based on a four-decade-old design from Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE.

Offering Help
“If they’re meeting now, it’s probably to discuss how to cool the reactors quickly, or how to scrap them, as Tepco doesn’t have the technology to do this,” said Jeffrey Bor, head of the economics department at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei and a former vice president of the International Association for Energy Economics. Taiwan operates six nuclear power reactors.
Tepco is still considering when and where it will inject nitrogen into the plant, said Kensuke Takeuchi, another spokesman.

The threat of a hydrogen explosion emerged when the gas was released from overheating reactors after the March 11 tsunami knocked out their cooling systems.

A 9-magnitude temblor and subsequent tsunami severed power and damaged reactors at the Fukushima complex about 220 kilometers (136 miles) north of Tokyo. Workers have been spraying water on the reactors to cool radioactive fuel rods in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Radiation Slows Work
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu estimated as much as 70 percent of the core in one of the six reactors may have been damaged. High radiation levels have impeded progress at the plant, Chu said April 1 during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.

“Injecting nitrogen is done to cool reactors quickly,” said Chinese Culture University’s Bor. “Nitrogen should be considered an emergency measure and can’t be used for prolonged periods because you don’t have such large quantities of it.”

Tepco said it is connecting power cables to cooling systems on three of four damaged reactors. The utility will have to check pipes and equipment connected to the residual heat removers and those that circulate water through the reactors before the pumps can be turned on, Kobayashi said. Connecting power may not work because of potential damage caused by blasts that ripped through the plant in the days after the quake.

U.S. Military Barge
A second U.S. military barge has arrived at the port near the Fukushima power plant, while the first has started to pour fresh water into a tank at the complex to be used for cooling the reactors, Tepco said in a statement.

Katsumata, 71, took charge at Tepco last week when President Masataka Shimizu, 66, was hospitalized March 30 because of high blood pressure. Shimizu won’t be gone from his post “for long,” Katsumata said.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan yesterday made his second visit to the areas hit by the quake and tsunami, according to televised footage by national broadcaster NHK. Kan flew on a helicopter to Iwate prefecture in the northeast to meet with evacuees and then went to neighboring Fukushima prefecture to talk with Self-Defense Forces members and other workers at the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

The Japanese government may buy a stake in Tepco as the company tries to recover from the disaster and control the radiation leaks.


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