Fukushima Cooling Circuits May Be Damaged, France’s ASN Says

Getting pumps and cooling circuits working at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Japan may take days even after power is restored, according to the French nuclear watchdog.

“There will be a risk of creating short-circuits in material that was underwater,” Marie-Pierre Comets, a commissioner at the Paris-based Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said at a press conference today. “There are a lot of tests on the cooling systems that have to be carried out.”

Seawater used to cool the reactors and spent-fuel pools may have caused corrosion in cooling equipment and salt could have crystallized in some places, hindering the ability of water to cool fuel rods, Comets said.

Workers were evacuated today from the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors after grayish smoke was seen rising from one of the buildings, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator, is attempting to restore electricity to the reactors, which need a constant flow of coolant to prevent nuclear fuel from overheating and emitting radiation.

“Stocks of fresh water need to be increased at the reactor site,” the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire, another French atomic regulator, said in a statement.

Reactors No. 1, 2 and 3 remain in a “critical state” because a lasting cooling system hasn’t been put in place, the agency said. “The effects of salt in the water that has been injected could modify cooling of the fuel over the short term.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

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