Tepco Rushes to Cover Fukushima Nuclear Plant as Typhoon Ma-On Nears Japan
Tokyo Electric Power Co. is rushing to install a cover over a building at its crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant to shield it from wind and rain as Typhoon Ma-on approaches Japan’s coast from the south.
Work on the cover for the turbine building of the No. 3 reactor started at about 8:30 a.m. today, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility known as Tepco, said at briefing in Tokyo. The transfer of tainted water for storage in a barge docked next to the plant was halted, spokesman Satoshi Watanabe said by telephone.
The eye of Ma-on, which is categorized as “extremely strong,” was about 420 kilometers (260 miles) southeast of the city of Kagoshima at 4 p.m. today, or 1,200 kilometers from the Fukushima plant, according to the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The storm was moving north at 25 kilometers per hour with winds blowing at 157 kph. Ma-on is forecast to continuing heading north and may cross coast of the southwestern island of Kyushu after 6 a.m. tomorrow. A forecast track from the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center indicates the storm may pass over the Fukushima plant by July 21.
The Japanese weather agency issued warnings for floods and high waves along the southern coast from Okinawa to Tokyo.
Last year, the eyes of two storms passed within 300 kilometers of Tohoku, as the area where the plants are located is known, data from the weather agency show.
Tepco shares rose 2.6 percent on July 15 and are down 78 percent since the day before the disaster. Japan’s markets are closed today for a national holiday.
The utility is on schedule to contain radioactive emissions from its Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which suffered three reactor meltdowns after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on July 16 during a visit to the area. Tepco will announce tomorrow that it has completed the first phase of its plan to resolve the crisis, he said.
Tepco has achieved its phase one goal of keeping the reactors cool and reducing the amount of radiation being emitted by mid July, Kan said while visiting a sports center near the Fukushima plant where workers rest.
Much of the work has been focused on decontaminating highly radiated water that flooded basements and trenches around the damaged reactors as Tepco doused the units to keep them cool.
Water overflowed from damaged reactors, impeding efforts to bring the situation under control. A decontamination unit started work last month, though its operation has been intermittently halted due to leaks and other malfunctions.
Tepco’s so-called road map for resolving the crisis was released on April 17 and envisages bringing the plant to a safe status within nine months. The second phase involves bringing the reactors to a state known as cold shutdown, where the fuel’s temperature is held below 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit).
Because the fuel assemblies have melted down, Tepco and the government will tomorrow outline new criteria for bringing the reactors into a safe state, Goshi Hosono, Kan’s minister for dealing with the Fukushima crisis, said July 12.
“I received an announcement from Minister Hosono that step one can be achieved pretty much as planned,” Kan said July 16. “I told him that I want to make every effort to achieve step two ahead of schedule.”
At the plant, a worker from a subcontractor was injured today after falling from a pole while working on connecting cables near an entrance gate, Matsumoto said at Tepco’s briefing. The male worker in his 40s is conscious though unable to walk on his own, he said.
Japan’s government will meet to discuss power demand and supply as early as tomorrow after Kansai Electric Power Co. shut a reactor at one of its nuclear stations, the Sankei newspaper reported, without citing anyone.
Mandatory power savings have been imposed in some areas of Japan after the earthquake and tsunami knocked out capacity and caused the reactor meltdowns at Fukushima. Other reactors closed down safely after the disaster or have been idled for scheduled maintenance, exacerbating shortages.
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