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Japan Revises Plan to Bring Fukushima Reactors Under Control

  • Martyn Williams

Workers are seen near cable trench pit for the water intake of No.2 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima prefecture in this handout photo released by TEPCO on May 17, 2011

Workers are seen near cable trench pit for the water intake of No.2 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima prefecture in this handout photo released by TEPCO on May 17, 2011

Tokyo Electric will step up measures to prevent groundwater contamination at the stricken Fukushima nuclear-power plant amid worries that highly radioactive water is leaking from the core of at least one reactor.

Company officials say work will begin immediately to build a drainage system that will pump the water to a reprocessing facility where much of the radioactivity can be removed. It will then be re-circulated through the cooling system.

Recent data analysis concluded a meltdown of nuclear fuel likely occurred within a day of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region. The melted fuel is thought to have created holes allowing water to leak from the center of the reactor.

The work is one of the new measures in Tokyo Electric's plan for taking the Fukushima Daiichi plant from crisis to stability. Other measures will be visually apparent at the plant in the coming months.

To guard against further damage from a possible tsunami created by future aftershocks, Tokyo Electric will install stone-filled cages along the shoreline to mitigate waves.

In early June the company will begin building a large shell around the Reactor-1 building. The temporary building's job is twofold: to keep environmental emissions of radioactive materials down and to shield the damaged building from late summer typhoons. There are also plans to add similar shields around the damaged Reactor-3 and Reactor-4 buildings.

It has been one month since the Fukushima recovery plan was published.

Tokyo Electric says it remains on schedule to bring the plant under control sometime between November this year and January 2012. Most work is on track and at least one measure, the installation of remote-controlled water-spraying machinery, is ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government says a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency will arrive in Japan next week to investigate the Fukushima accident. The news was announced by Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Edano says the 20-person team will be in Japan for about a week and will report its results to a June ministerial meeting in Vienna. It will be led by Mike Weightman, Britain's chief nuclear inspector and head of its nuclear safety and security regulator.

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