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Water gauges to be installed on all flange tanks

September 6, 2013
Tepco plans to equip radioactive water tanks with level gauges

Staff Writer



Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday that it will install water-level gauges on all flange-type tanks storing radioactive coolant water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of November to beef up monitoring.

Last month Tepco belatedly revealed that one of the tanks, which number in the hundreds and are made of steel plates bolted together, leaked some 300 tons of highly radioactive water, causing a domestic and international uproar over the contamination of the environment. Tepco admitted Thursday that the water probably seeped down and merged with tainted groundwater flowing into the Pacific.

The new gauges can remotely monitor the levels of water in the tanks nonstop and sound an alarm if a drop in the level is detected, the utility said.

Currently, only 55 flange-type tanks out of 337 are equipped with gauges. The existing gauges are different from the ones that will be installed and cannot be remotely monitored.

The flange-type tanks, which are considered temporary, are sealed with waterproof packing at their bolted-together seams. The tanks have experienced several leaks, including the recent one in which 300 tons of radioactive water escaped.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority deemed that leak a level 3 “serious incident” on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, or INES, to 7. The Fukushima No. 1 plant meltdown calamity stands at a level 7, just like the Chernobyl catastrophe.

The radioactive water problem has drawn keen international attention, in part because the International Olympics Committee will choose early Sunday Japan time whether Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul will host the 2020 Olympics.

During a news conference held in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, where the IOC will announce the host city, many questions from foreign media focused on the Fukushima plant.

In an apparent effort to deflect the concerns, Tepco posted a video message by President Naomi Hirose on Thursday on its English-language website: “We recognize that bringing the contaminated water under control is the most urgent and serious problem that must be addressed. We are tackling this by implementing not only emergency measures, but also fundamental measures.”

He also said the radiation monitoring shows that the impact has been contained within the small, now basically walled-in harbor at the power plant and that the wider ocean is safe.

Asked if the Olympic bid prompted the video message posting, a Tepco spokeswoman said that was not the motive, adding that the utility is simply trying to better inform the global community.

Tepco is making storage tanks nonstop, as it accumulates some 300-plus tons of highly radioactive water daily that first was circulated into its three reactors that suffered meltdowns, to keep their molten fuel inside submerged.

Water that leaks out of the reactor containment vessels into the buildings housing the crippled units combines with contaminated groundwater entering the basements on its way to the sea. That amount is also believed to be some 300 tons daily.

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