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Tepco Chief Fails to Get Assurance on Restarting Nuclear Station

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company at the center of Japan’s nuclear disaster, failed to get an assurance from Fukushima prefecture’s governor that a second plant in the area can be restarted.

Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu met Governor Yuhei Sato in the prefectural office in Fukushima city earlier today to apologize for the accident, said Katsuhiro Kiko, a spokesman at the local government. Shimizu, who was refused meetings with the governor on April 11 and March 22, outlined plans to bring the crisis under control.

Sato told reporters after the meeting that Tepco can’t restart nuclear power plants without safety guarantees, according to Kiko.

Tepco, as the company is called, is trying to contain radiation spewing from its Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant after a magnitude-9 quake on March 11 unleashed a tsunami that flooded the station, knocking out cooling systems. Its second plant in the prefecture was safely shut down in the disaster and accounts for about 7 percent of Tepco’s capacity.

The central government today started enforcing a no-entry zone within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of Dai-Ichi as a public health measure after residents returned to the area to check their homes. Dai-Ichi is located about 220 kilometers north of Tokyo. Tepco’s Fukushima Dai-Ni plant is about 11 kilometers south of the Dai-Ichi plant.

Order to Leave

The order went into effect at midnight, the Japanese government said in a statement. Residents in areas outside the zone where radiation has been detected have been given till the end of May to leave, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said today.

An earlier directive asking about 80,000 residents living within the 20-kilometer radius to evacuate wasn’t legally binding. Some have returned to the area to collect belongings and check their properties against the advice of officials. One person per household will be allowed to return to their homes for two-hour periods to retrieve possessions, Edano said yesterday.

Tepco has been pouring millions of liters of water to cool the reactors and spent fuel after the accident, which has flooded basements and trenches near the buildings that house them. Some highly contaminated water leaked into the sea and the utility has dumped less-toxic fluids into the ocean.

About 520,000 liters (137,000 gallons) of water with a level of radioactivity that was 20,000 times the legal limit leaked into the ocean between April 1 and 6, Junichi Matsumoto, a Tepco general manager, said yesterday at a briefing in the Japanese capital.

Radiation Leak

The amount of radiation discharged in the leakage was 4,700 terabecquerels of iodine-131, cesium-137 and cesium-134, according to a statement from Tepco.

Basements and trenches around the reactor buildings are also flooded with radioactive water, preventing repairs to the electrical equipment and cooling systems.

Tepco started pumping contaminated water out of trenches near one of the reactor buildings, Matsumoto said on April 19. The company aims to move 10 million liters of the contaminated water to a storage unit and expects to complete the transfer in 26 days.

About 690,000 liters was pumped out by 7 a.m. today, spokesman Tetsuya Terasawa said at a briefing in Tokyo.

Tepco will build a seawall to protect its biggest atomic power station from a tsunami like the one that knocked out the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant.

Crisis Rating

Tepco plans to construct a wall to a height of 15 meters (50 feet) above sea level off the coast of its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant northwest of Tokyo, spokeswoman Ai Tanaka said by phone. Three of seven reactors remain shut at the station after an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks.

Japan’s government last week raised the severity rating of the Fukushima crisis to the highest on an international scale, the same level as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The station, which has withstood hundreds of aftershocks, may release more contamination than Chernobyl before the crisis is contained, Tepco officials said.

The company won’t get approval to start the remaining reactors at Kashiwazaki until it resolves the crisis in Fukushima, a local government official said on April 6.

Tepco said on April 13 it wants permission to restart the remaining idled reactors at the Kashiwazaki plant, the world’s biggest atomic power station, to meet potential shortfalls after losing generating capacity in the disaster.

Tepco has been criticized by the government for responding too slowly to the crisis that unfolded at Fukushima after the tsunami washed ashore. The company also received criticism for the way it responded to the quake that hit near the Kashiwazaki station in 2007.

Kashiwazaki should be shut permanently, a group of scientists said one month after the 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit the area.

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