Highly radioactive water in nuke plant to be moved for storage Sunday

April 12, 2011 1:35 am 

TOKYO, April 10 — Workers at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are expected Sunday to start pumping out highly radioactive water filling an underground trench to a nearby storage place they have secured inside the No. 2 reactor turbine building, the government's nuclear safety agency said.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said that removing the highly contaminated water from the trench must be done "in haste," as the level of the water filling the tunnel-like trench is edging up, apparently because of steps taken to prevent the water from leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Toxic water has been found in the basements of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactor turbine buildings, as well as in nearby trenches connected to them. Transferring the water, totaling some 60,000 tons, to nearby tanks and other storage places is seen as vital to move ahead with the work to restore the key cooling functions at the reactors.

The water inside the basement of the No. 2 reactor turbine building and the trench connected to it is highly contaminated because it is believed to be originating from the No. 2 reactor core, where fuel rods have partially melted.

"As contaminated water with high concentration (of radioactive substances) would be moved, we would like to confirm the safety of the process," Nishiyama told a press conference in the morning.

The water in the trench is expected to be transferred to a "condenser" inside the No. 2 reactor turbine building, where in normal operations steam created from the reactor is converted into water.

The condenser has a capacity to store 3,000 tons of liquid and work to empty the condenser finished Saturday.

Workers are also trying to open up a facility for nuclear waste disposal in the plant by continuing to dump relatively less contaminated water found inside the facility to the Pacific Ocean.

A total of 8,900 tons of water has been disposed of from the facility as of Sunday morning and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. aims to finish releasing the remaining 200 tons during the day.

The utility known as TEPCO may also fly a small unmanned helicopter to survey the plant, possibly starting on Sunday depending on the weather, Nishiyama said. (PNA/Kyodo)

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