Japan finds more water leaks at Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant has leaked more than 600 litres of water, forcing it to briefly suspend cooling operations at a spent-fuel pond at the weekend, but none is thought to have escaped into the ocean, the plant’s operator and domestic media said.

The Fukushima plant, on the coast north of Tokyo, was wrecked by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March last year, triggering the evacuation of around 80,000 people in the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

The operator of the complex, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), reported two main leakages on its Web site yesterday, one from a pump near the plant’s office building and another from a back-up cooling system at reactor No.4.

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Japan: First video peep into the Number 2 nuclear reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Plant

Tokyo Electric Power Company TEPCO released the first pictures of the interior of the number 2 reactor containment vessel at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The images, taken on Jan. 19 using an industrial endoscope working on the same principle as those used for medical examinations, showed no apparent damage to piping. But it did show paintwork peeling, probably caused by the extreme temperature and humidity inside the vessel.

The images were blurred, partly as a result of the high humidity inside the vessel, and were also affected by visual noise, which may be due to the high level of radiation inside the vessel.

Read the rest of the story: A peep into hell.

40-year age limit sought for Japan nuclear reactors

Japan says it will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety following the nuclear crisis set off by last years tsunami.

Concern about aging reactors has been growing because the three units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan that went into meltdown following the tsunami in March were built starting in 1967. Among other reactors at least 40 years old are those at the Tsuruga and Mihama plants in central Japan, which were built starting in 1970.

Many more of the 54 reactors in Japan will reach the 40-year mark in the near future, though some were built only a few years ago.

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Japan: Nuclear Plants to Undergo Stress Tests

Japan said Wednesday it will conduct "stress tests" on all the countrys nuclear plants to ease heightened concerns about disaster preparedness after this years tsunami sparked the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan knocked out power at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, sending it toward meltdown in a crisis that engineers are still struggling to contain. The plant operator has come under heavy criticism for failing to sufficiently prepare for the disasters.The government already ordered exhaustive safety checks on all the countrys 54 nuclear reactors following the disaster, and it was not immediately clear what additional measures would be added by the stress tests.

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Worker at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant Dead

A man died on his second day of work at Japans tsunami-wrecked nuclear power plant Saturday, and the plant operator said harmful levels of radiation were not detected in his body.

The contract worker in his 60s was the first person to die at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan since March 11, when an earthquake and tsunami damaged the facility and caused fires, explosions and radiation leaks in the worlds second-worst nuclear accident.

The worker was carrying equipment when he collapsed and died later in a hospital, said Naoyuki Matsumoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. The company does not know the cause of his death, Matsumoto said.

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U.S. and France to help Japan in nuclear crisis

France and the United States are to help Japan in its battle to contain radiation from a crippled nuclear complex where plutonium finds have raised public alarm over the world’s worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The high-stakes operation at the Fukushima plant has added to Japan’s unprecedented humanitarian disaster with 27,500 people dead or missing from a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the G20 and G8 blocs of nations, plans to visit Tokyo on Thursday. He will be the first foreign leader in Japan since the disaster.

In further support, France flew in two experts from its state-owned nuclear reactor maker Areva and its CEA nuclear research body to assist Japan’s heavily-criticized plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).

A global leader in the industry, France produces about 75 percent of its power from reactors so it has a strong interest in helping Japan get through the Fukushima disaster.

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Japan says high radiation due to partial meltdown after quake

Mistaken radiation readings given out by the operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant were "absolutely unforgivable," the government’s chief spokesman said on Monday, as work to prevent a catastrophic meltdown faced fresh hurdles.

Engineers have been battling to control the six-reactor Fukushima complex since it was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across Japan’s devastated northeast.

Fires, explosions, and radiation leaks have repeatedly forced them to suspend work, including on Sunday when radiation levels spiked to 100,000 times above normal. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant operator, had earlier said it was 10 million times the normal.

"On one hand, I do think the workers at the site are getting quite tired," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference. "But these radiation tests are being used for making various decisions on safety and therefore these mistakes are absolutely unforgivable."

A partial meltdown of fuel rods inside the reactor vessel was responsible for the high levels of radiation at reactor No. 2, Edano said.

"The airborne radiation is mainly contained within the reactor building. We must make sure this water does not seep out into the soil or out to sea," Edano said.

The spike in radiation levels forced a suspension of work over the weekend at the reactor, with experts warning that Japan faced a long fight to contain the world’s most dangerous atomic crisis in 25 years.

"This is far beyond what one nation can handle – it needs to be bumped up to the U.N. Security Council," said Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California. "In my humble opinion, this is more important than the Libya no fly zone."

Tokyo Electric has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain the overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

"Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over)," TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

He also apologized over the mistaken radiation reading.

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TEPCO hikes radiation limits as workers’ exposure rises

Tokyo Electric Power Company said some workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have already been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts and that the company, citing the unprecedented nature of the crisis, has raised the limit to 150 millisieverts for some outdoor workers.

After a single acute exposure of 1,000 millisieverts, people tend to start feeling nauseated and vomiting, Frey said. At 5,000 millisieverts over the course of a few hours, “people start dying.”
After exposure to 150 millisieverts per day, “you’re definitely in the range where you have significantly increased risk of radiation-induced cancers.”

For work involving recovery and restoration in an emergency operation, the International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends no more than 50 millisieverts in any given year. But in cases where the lives of a great number of people may be at stake, the ICRP says it recommends no restriction on dose as long as “the benefit to others clearly outweighs the rescuer’s risk.”

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‘Minuscule’ Amounts of Radiation From Japan Detected on West Coast

A “miniscule” amount of radiation that probably came from damaged nuclear reactors in Japan was picked up at a California monitoring station yesterday, the U.S. government said.

The level of radiation registered in Sacramento was about “one-millionth of the dose” a person gets from rocks, bricks, the sun and natural background sources and “poses no concern,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department said in a joint statement.

A similar level of the radioactive isotope, xenon-133, was detected in Washington state on March 16 and 17, according to the agencies. It was “consistent with a release from the Fukushima reactors in Northern Japan,” according to the statement. The EPA and Energy Department have monitoring systems and neither found “radiation levels of concern.”

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IAEA: Japan radiation leaking “directly” into air

Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog radioactivity was being released "directly" into the atmosphere from the site of an earthquake-stricken reactor and that it had put out a fire at a spent fuel storage pond there.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information it had received from Japanese authorities at 0350 GMT, said on Tuesday dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the Fukushima power plant site.

It did not give details or comparisons on the radiation level but exposure to over 100 millisieverts a year is a level which can lead to cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association.

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