Australian news, and some related international items

Radiation levels too high for workers to enter Fukushima nuclear reactors

FukushimaInside Fukushima two years on: radiation levels too high to enter reactors Telegraph UK, 6 March 13, Two years on from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history, The Telegraph’s Julian Ryall visits the Fukushima nuclear plant to see what progress – if any – is being made. By Julian Ryall, Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Japan

  Radiation levels within three of the reactor buildings at the Fukushima Nuclear plant in Japan are still too high for people to start decommissioning the reactors, two years on from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history.

Scientists still do not have a firm understanding of the precise conditions of the reactor cores in three of the six units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and are resorting to using remote-controlled vehicles to get inside the tangle of wires, pipes and rubbles that has lain untouched since the tsunami tore through the facility.


The Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant’s operator, insists that much has been achieved to bring the situation at the reactors under control. Radiation levels are declining, work is under way to build a crane that will be able to remove the spent fuel rods from the No. 4 unit at the plant and the debris is being cleared away.

For all the upbeat assessments emerging from TEPCO however, no one has been able to enter the three reactor buildings since they were crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which killed almost 16,000 people nationwide, and the scale of the problem in those units is still not clear…

Takeshi Takahashi, the head of the crippled plant, said.

“Radiation levels at units one, two and three are very high and the cause of that is the fuel that has melted inside the reactors,” he said.

The only success that the 3,000 workers who flood into the plant every day have had so far is with reactor 4, and that is largely because the unit was undergoing an inspection at the time of the disaster and its 1,533 fuel rods were stored in the spent fuel pool out of immediate harm’s way.

TEPCO has played down fears about the safety of the pool, which is on the third floor of a building badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, although extensive remedial and reinforcement work has been carried out. Some nuclear experts have warned that another major tremor could bring down the pool and expose the rods to the air, which would be an even greater catastrophe than has already befallen north-east Japan.

To remove that threat, TEPCO is constructing a huge new tower alongside the building that will house a crane designed to lift the rods into casks and then lower them to ground level where they can be transported to a secure site, Mr Takahashi said. The crane should be ready to go into operation in November, he said…..

The situation around the other reactor buildings remains no less chaotic.

The twisted hulk of a truck that was caught in the tsunami is still rammed up against the shell of one of the reactor buildings. Steel barriers have been bent perpendicular to the ground by the force of the waves that battered the plant.

Teams of workers in regulation white or blue protective all-body suits go about their duties, further protected by three layers of gloves, two layers of socks, a skull cap and an uncomfortable full face mask with respirators.

“Radiation has no colour or smell and if you work in that environment for a while you get used to it and you’re not afraid any more,” admitted Hiroshige Kobayashi, 45, the head of the construction office at the plant for contractor Kajima Corp. “That’s a psychological thing among the workers here, but we constantly try to remind them that there is a threat to their health, to enhance their awareness…..


March 6, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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