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Workers Enter First Reactor Building at Fukushima

Contributed by on May 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Fukushima Robot (Photo Courtesy AP)

For the first time since the Japanese Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami on March 11th that caused substantial damage to it, workers at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Japan have again entered the reactor building.   The goal is to repair the cooling system in reactor number one, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported, citing the power plant operator Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company).

Working in groups of two workers at a time, each dressed in protective suits equipped with oxygen masks with special filters for the radioactive air, are only allowed in the Reactor for ten minutes before they must leave.  The project will take four or five days, it said.

Cooling system must be fixed first

TEPCO has been trying for two months to get the cooling circuits for the four reactors back on track.   The reduction of radioactivity must be achieved in order for the cooling system to be put back into operation. Even in mid-April, the radioactivity was so high that no worker could enter into the reactor building.   Finally, the values have fallen slightly, enough to begin work on the cooling system.

The power station operator has also announced their intention to develop a special filter for the decontamination of radioactively contaminated sea water.   The reactor is holding tens of thousands of gallons of contaminated water which was used to cool the reactors avoiding a potential meltdown.  The water will be pumped through a large filter full of zeolites, reported  Japanese TV station NHK.   These substances have a very large surface area and bind to radioactive atoms such as cesium-137.   According to NHK, Tepco could not ensure that radioactively contaminated water from the power plant would escape into the sea.   The plant is located directly on the Pacific.   Already, scientists have estimated that the radioactive pollution of the sea floor off Fukushima I is already 100 to 1000 times higher than normal.

About 80,000 people evacuated

The nuclear power plant in Fukushima was damaged on March 11th by the Earthquake and the subsequent Tsunami and was further badly damaged by a hydrogen explosion. The meltdown has been classified on the international scale at the highest level 7 – the same as Chernobyl.   However, so far the accident in Fukushima has released significantly less radioactivity into the environment.

The earthquake and tsunami took more than 25,000 lives.   Because of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, in which four of the six reactors were damaged by explosions, more than 80,000 people who live within a 20 kilometer radius of the plant have been left without homes.

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