Japan’s nuclear plant operator pays ‘condolence money’

April 06, 2011, Wednesday/ 17:09:00

The operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant started paying “condolence money” on Tuesday to victims of the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl while it kept pouring radioactive water into the sea.

In desperation, engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have turned to what are little more than home remedies to stem the flow of contaminated water. On Tuesday, they used “liquid glass” in the hope of plugging cracks in a leaking concrete pit.

”We tried pouring sawdust, newspaper and concrete mixtures into the side of the pit [leading to tunnels outside reactor No.2], but the mixture does not seem to be entering the cracks,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).

”We also still do not know how the highly contaminated water is seeping out of Reactor No.2,” said Nishiyama. Workers are struggling to restart cooling pumps -- which recycle the water -- in four reactors damaged by last month’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. Their problem is that until those are fixed, they must pump in water from outside to prevent overheating and meltdowns. In the process that creates more contaminated water that has to be pumped out and stored somewhere else or released into the sea. There is a total of 60,000 tons of highly contaminated water in the plant after workers frantically poured in seawater when fuel rods experienced partial meltdown after the tsunami hit northeast Japan on March 11.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was forced on Monday to start releasing 11,500 tons of low-level radioactive seawater after it ran out of storage capacity for more highly contaminated water.

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