Japan Plant Decon Unit Halted After Radiation Buildup

(Jun. 20) -A protester takes part in an antinuclear rally in Tokyo earlier this month. A rapid radioactivity buildup on Saturday prompted the deactivation of a new water decontamination system at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Toru Yamanaka/Getty Images).
(Jun. 20) -A protester takes part in an antinuclear rally in Tokyo earlier this month. A rapid radioactivity buildup on Saturday prompted the deactivation of a new water decontamination system at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Toru Yamanaka/Getty Images).

Tokyo Electric Power on Saturday suspended use of a new water decontamination system within hours of its launch at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant after radioactivity increased in the device more quickly than anticipated, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 15).

Radioactive contaminants have escaped the six-reactor Fukushima facility through air and water following a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people dead or missing in Japan. The firm said the precipitous radiation increase had taken place in a cesium collection component of the system, which was installed recently in an effort to treat fluid flooding large portions of the facility (Hideyuki Sano, Reuters I, June 18).

The firm was seeking remedies on Monday and hoped to relaunch the mechanism on Tuesday, Kyodo News reported (Kyodo News I/Mainichi Daily News, June 20).

"Unless we can resume the operation within a week, we will have problems in disposing of the contaminated water," a Tokyo Electric Power representative told reporters on Saturday. "But if this is caused by the reasons we are thinking, we can resume the operation within a week."

The company still saw no indications that it could not meet its goal of bringing conditions at the plant under control in 2011, Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying (Sano, Reuters I).

Meanwhile, the company on Sunday began inserting additional fluid for high-radiation components near the No. 4 reactor that might no longer be submerged in water and could be releasing airborne contaminants, company sources said (Kyodo News II/Mainichi Daily News, June 20).

The operator planned on Sunday to release potentially contaminated vapor from the facility's No. 2 reactor building, a move aimed at sufficiently lowering moisture levels to permit entry by personnel. The firm said the release would not negatively affect the atmosphere (Kyodo News III/Mainichi Daily News, June 19).

Elsewhere, regular physical examinations are set to start before July for more than 2 million inhabitants of the area around the plant, the London Telegraph reported on Monday. Individuals residing in Fukushima prefecture are expected to receive such checkups for the next three decades as part of an effort to address radiation fears (Danielle Demetriou, London Telegraph, June 20).

Tokyo opted last week to aid in the nonmandatory transfer of individuals from specific residences in isolated regions where radiation poses a particular threat, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday. The government as early as next week could urge residents to leave specific domiciles beyond the plant's 12-mile mandatory exclusion zone (Asahi Shimbun, June 18).

In Vienna, Austria, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday called for an international review of protective measures at atomic power facilities, the Associated Press reported.

A majority of governments participating in an IAEA atomic safety conference this week favor not being obligated to comply with potential new protective standards.

“Even the best safety standards are useless unless they are actually implemented,” Amano told meeting attendees. The IAEA chief advocated measures including periodic checks on all reactors in the world and giving greater authority to atomic regulators (Associated Press/Washington Post, June 20).

A 160-page U.N. assessment prepared for the meeting charges Japanese atomic officials with neglecting to implement adequate safeguards against tsunamis.

"The operators were faced with a catastrophic, unprecedented emergency scenario with no power, reactor control or instrumentation," the document states (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters II, June 18).

June 20, 2011
About

Tokyo Electric Power on Saturday suspended use of a new water decontamination system within hours of its launch at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant after radioactivity increased in the device more quickly than anticipated, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 15).

Countries