Toxic water level increases in Japan's crippled N-plant

Toxic water level increases in Japan's crippled N-plant

Workers of the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), are engaged in moving highly radioactive water from the tunnel of the No. 2 reactor to a temporary storage facility. However, the power company said the water level in the tunnel of the No. 3 reactor rose to 99 centimetres below the surface last evening. That passes the level at which TEPCO plans to remove the water, but it is yet to secure storage space, national broadcaster NHK reported.

The water level in the basement of the No.3 reactor's turbine building also rose by 10 centimetres over 3 days, more than a month after a magnitude-9 quake and tsunami left nearly 30,000 people dead or unaccounted for in Japan's north east.

Earlier, a survey found an increase in the density of radioactive substances in the water in the basement of the No. 4 reactor's turbine building. The water level in the No. 4 reactor's turbine building rose by 20 centimetres in 10 days.

TEPCO said the levels of cesium-134 and 137 increased about 250-fold and iodine-131 increased about 12 times compared with the levels one month ago. Contamination of this level requires the TEPCO workers to prioritise the transfer or disposal of the water.

TEPCO said the water being used to cool the No. 3 reactor could be leaking into No. 4 as their turbine buildings are connected. The government's nuclear agency separately said that water may be leaking from the No. 1 reactor container of the crisis-hit Fukushima plant, and that remote-controlled robots are expected to check the situation inside the reactor building, Kyodo news agency reported.

The power company has also rewired the power grid at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to secure supply of electricity in case of another strong quake. The company completed work to connect the cables for the No.1 and No.2 reactors to the grid for the No.5 and No.6 reactors last evening. The plant's six reactors had been supplied with electricity in pairs from external power sources.

The work is aimed at ensuring that if any one of the three outside sources is cut off, the others can be used to cool the reactors. During the operation, external power to the No.1, No.2 and No.5 reactors was suspended for a few hours, but there were no problems.

TEPCO decided to rewire the power grids after all 13 of the plant's emergency generators were disabled when a tsunami hit the plant on March 11. The blackout led to four of the six reactors overheating.

In addition, a major aftershock on April 11 temporarily cut off the external power supply, causing the pumping of water into the 4 reactors to stop for about 50 minutes. However, all the reactors are now able to get electricity from external power sources if their own supply lines break down, NHK said.

On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Japan, struggling to contain the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima, is drawing on lessons learnt in the aftermath of the 1986 atomic accident.

"The studies and research on what kind of health problems could emerge based on Chernobyl have become an asset and knowledge shared by all humanity," the top government spokesman said.

"Those things served as an indirect factor" in determining the evacuation and no-entry orders the government issued to residents near the Fukushima Daiichi plant since it was crippled shortly after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, he said.

Edano said that crises in Fukushima and Chernobyl were different in nature. "Unfortunately the amount of radioactive material leaked was about one-tenth (of Chernobyl), but at least we were able to avoid explosions of the reactors," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan faced more pressure from within his own party and opposition groups to resign, as Japan confronted the pressing tasks of bringing its nuclear crisis under control and rebuilding the northeastern region, Kyodo said.

More than 60 Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers participated in a meeting aimed at launching a fresh campaign to oust Kan, saying the government's handling of the aftermath of the natural calamities has been unsatisfactory.

Yukio Hatoyama, who was prime minister and DPJ leader before Kan, called for a meeting of all ruling party parliamentarians in the immediate future. House of Councillors President Takeo Nishioka also criticised Kan for the government's handling of the devastating twin natural disaster, and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

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