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Touring Fukushima Daiichi plant

Fukushima nuclear plant shown to media, plant chief apologizes for water leaks






Several workers are seen tending to the remains of the No. 4 reactor that was heavily damaged by a hydrogen explosion shortly after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in this photo taken on Feb. 20. (Mainichi)


OKUMA, Fukushima -- The crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was shown to the media on Feb. 20 for the first time since the government declared in December that the nuclear facility had achieved a stable "cold shutdown" state.

The media tour of the nuclear plant was aimed at letting people know about progress being made in efforts to bring the troubled nuclear power station under control. But a rough road still lies ahead for the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to bring the plant under control, as levels of radiation remain high there and truck-mounted pumps to inject water into the reactors leaked water frequently due to the water freezing.

The plant's chief Takeshi Takahashi, 54, apologized for the repeated water leaks, telling visiting reporters, "We have taken measures primarily to keep key facilities warm, but there is no denying that our calculations were inaccurate."

It was the second time for the media to tour the nuclear plant after an earlier visit in November. As in the previous round, journalists got on a bus to move round the area where six nuclear reactors lie. The radiation level on the ocean side of the No. 3 reactor was 1.5 millisieverts per hour. That means a person gets exposed to an annual dose limit in just one hour. The levels of radiation were so high that journalists were allowed to get off the bus and walk around facilities only for 15 minutes during their one-hour tour.

Among the six reactors, the No. 4 reactor has seen the biggest progress in the decommissioning project, with several workers using a crane to move scaffolding and other materials.

The truck-mounted water injection pumps were shown to the media for the first time. The pumps, which were hastily installed about three months after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, are supposed to perform key functions for the cooling water recycling system at the Fukushima plant. Three pumps for regular use and three others for emergencies are mounted on trucks parked on higher ground about 35 meters above sea level. But there were a series of mishaps with water leakages from the pumps, northwest of the No. 1 reactor, in late January due to frozen water, prompting workers to conduct repair work by wrapping hoses with heat insulators made of rubber.

During the media tour of the nuclear plant, the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) was questioning TEPCO officials about the operations of treatment and storage facilities for contaminated water in an effort to check whether steps were being properly taken to maintain the conditions of the "cold shutdown."


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