Workers Survey Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Building To Prepare For Repair Work


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TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Eight workers and a government inspector entered the reactor building of the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex's No. 1 unit early Monday to survey conditions inside, another step toward bringing the complex's three damaged reactors under control since they began leaking radiation after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It was the first time a government official took a first-hand look at the one of the damaged reactors.

"No noticeable damage or leakage was found in the area surveyed," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency after the inspection. But he added the brief 30-minute survey wasn't sufficient to assess the condition of the vital pressure vessel, a thick steel cylinder that houses the nuclear fuel.

"There is a long way ahead to fully stabilizing all three reactors. It is too early to rejoice," another official said.

Meanwhile, Chubu Electric Power Co. (9502) was expected to hold an extraordinary board meeting Monday afternoon to discuss a government request to shut down its Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture until safety measures against a possible tsunami are put in place. Local media have reported Chubu will likely accept the request, but a company spokesman said only nothing had been decided.

At the Fukushima plant, the inspection of the ground level of the reactor building was the first by humans since the complex was hit by the earthquake and tsunami. A hydrogen explosion the next day damaged the upper part of the building, and robots carried out an initial inspection last month.

The eight workers from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) and one senior inspector from NISA entered the building with protective gear and face masks to check radiation levels. Workers plan to set up a heat exchanger by the end of the month as part of a plan to retrofit an air-based cooling system.

During the 30-minute survey, the nine members of the group received cumulative radiation ranging from 2.7 millisieverts to 10.56 millisieverts, Nishiyama said.

Radiation levels in some places reached 600-700 millisieverts per hour, compared with an annual dosage limit of 250 millisieverts allowed for a male worker engaged in disaster relief work at the complex, Nishiayma said.

In addition to the heat exchanger, workers plan to put up a new water gauge to measure the operation to flood the reactor with thousands of tons of water to submerge the fuel and the pressure vessel by filling the whole steel containment vessel surrounding the pressure vessel.

But the installation of such equipment is likely to be hampered by high radiation, as the group found several radiation "hot spots," especially around pipes suspected to be clogged with highly radioactive material.

Nishiyama said these spots would need to be shielded with lead sheets so work can proceed without fear of excessive radiation exposure.
2011/05/09 15:24 - Workers Survey Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Building To Prepare For Repair Work

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