Water cleanup system shut down at Japan nuke plant

A system to clean massive amounts of contaminated water at the site of Japan's nuclear disaster was shut down today, just hours after it began full operations, because a component filled with radioactivity much more quickly than expected.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, is investigating the cause and isn't sure when it will restart the system, company spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said.



Fresh water is being pumped in to cool damaged reactor cores, and is getting contaminated in the process. Some 105,000 tons of highly radioactive water have pooled across the plant, and could overflow within a couple of weeks if action is not taken.



In earlier tests, the water treatment system reduced cesium levels in the water to about one-10,000th of their original levels. The system began full operations last night after a series of problems involving leaks and valve flaws.



The system was suspended this morning when workers detected a sharp radiation increase in the system's cesium-absorbing component, Matsumoto said. Radioactivity in one of 24 cartridges, which was expected to last for a few weeks, had already reached its limit within five hours, he said.



Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to the nuclear plant, incapacitating its crucial cooling systems and causing three reactor cores to melt. TEPCO aims to bring the reactors to a stable cold shutdown state by early January.



The water treatment system is to be eventually connected to a cooling system so the treated water can be reused. But treating the water will create an additional headache — tons of highly radioactive sludge will require a separate long-term storage space.



The Fukushima crisis shattered Japan's confidence in the safety of nuclear energy and prompted anti-nuclear sentiment. But there are also concerns that Japan will face a serious summertime power crunch unless more of its reactors get back on line.



Of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, more than 30 — including six at Fukushima Dai-ichi and several others that stopped due to the quake — are out of operation.



Economy and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said today that the rest of the nuclear plants in Japan are safe and their reactors should resume operations as soon as their ongoing regular checks are completed. He said nationwide inspections this week have found that Japanese nuclear power plants are now prepared for accidents as severe as the one that crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi.



Resumption of about a dozen reactors undergoing regular checkups is up in the air amid growing local residents' fear of nuclear accidents. Many of the plants' hometown officials have said restarting any pending reactors would be impossible amid the ongoing crisis.



Kaieda, however, said Japan needs the power. "Stable electric supply is indispensable for Japan's reconstruction from the disaster and its economic recovery," he said in a statement.



The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency instructed Japanese nuclear operators to improve their preparedness for severe accidents earlier this month and conducted nationwide on-site inspections this week.



The inspections focused on measures to reduce the risk of hydrogen explosions inside containment buildings as one of the lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis, the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.



Japanese nuclear plant operators have already taken other steps to improve accident management since the disaster to maintain core cooling capacity during blackouts.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat