Thursday 30 March 2017

Plans for 'new Fukushima' unveiled

Nuclear firm submitted blueprints as Japan disaster death toll hit 10,000

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

THE nuclear power company in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan submitted plans for two new reactors at the site 11 days after it was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami last month.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) filed its plan to start work on the reactors in spring next year with the Fukushima prefectural government the day after the death toll from the disasters surpassed 10,000 and an advisory panel to the government disclosed that the number three reactor was leaking radiation.

The proposal was incorporated into a report on future power consumption and generation capabilities that was given to Japan's economic ministry on March 31.

Hiro Hasegawa, a spokesman for TEPCO, said the firm was required to submit a report on its annual electricity plan for the next fiscal year by law. "We had prepared the report before March 11 (the day of the earthquake) and did not have time to change the information it contained," he said.

"People ask why we did not drop the report, but it's not as easy as that. We did not have time to reassess the plans."

TEPCO officials said it would not be possible to build the new plants although that opinion had not been formalised at a board meeting.

"We know it will be impossible," Mr Hasegawa said. But Yoichi Nozaki, the director general of Fukushima prefecture's planning and co-ordination department, said: "It was just unbelievable. Tokyo Electric may want to ignore the feelings of Fukushima residents, but this is not acceptable."

Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in politics and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, said: "I imagine there will be differences in the opinions... but the timing of this proposal is terrible."

In a separate development, engineers at the plant claimed to have plugged a crack yesterday that was leaking radioactive water. They pumped a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent in to a maintenance pit close to the reactors.

Explosion

High concentrations of radiation have escaped into the water, with TEPCO confirming that levels of radioactive iodine-131 in the sea off the damaged number two reactor were 7.5-million times higher than normal. About 60,000 tons of contaminated water that was sprayed on the reactors to keep them cool was still awaiting disposal.

"It is necessary to inject nitrogen gas into the containment vessel and eliminate the potential for a hydrogen explosion," a TEPCO spokesman said.

The possibility of another hydrogen explosion like those that ripped through reactors one and three early in the crisis, spreading high levels of radiation into the air, was "extremely low," he said.

But TEPCO suspected that the outside casing of the reactor vessel was damaged, said the official. "Under these conditions, if we continue cooling the reactors with water, the hydrogen leaking from the reactor vessel to the containment vessel could accumulate and could reach a point where it could explode," he added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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