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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas