Severe storms batter stricken nuclear plant

Tuesday 31st May 2011 by theWeather Club

Work to repair the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant has been disrupted as storms batter the Japanese coast. Just days after it admitted it was not prepared for harsh weather Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the nuclear plant, has suspended some of its outdoor work, as strong winds and rain pound parts of north-eastern Japan that were devastated in the 11th March earthquake and tsunami.

The situation has sparked fears that more radioactive material from the stricken plant could drain onto the land or into the sea, fears that have been increased by Japan's Meteorological Agency warning of potential mudslides and floods in the region.

The level of water in the basement of one of the six reactor buildings rose by nearly 20cm in 24 hours to nearly 6m, Tepco said early on Monday. "We presume the level of water has risen due to the rainwater which has seeped into the ground," said spokesman Junichi Matsumoto. The statement continued that the company was on alert to ensure that contaminated water in reactor buildings could not escape.

Workers have been spraying thousands of tonnes of water onto the damaged reactors to prevent fuel rods from overheating, after vital cooling systems were knocked out by the tsunami. The emergency measures have left four reactor buildings with radioactive contaminated water collecting inside.

As a precaution, Tepco said it had also stopped spraying chemicals that it was using to prevent radioactive dust from spreading. The company had been pouring anti-scattering agents - such as synthetic resins - around the damaged buildings of reactors one and four.

A special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan criticised Tepco on Saturday, saying that the current safety measures at the "plant cannot be said to be appropriate". The bad weather will come as an unwanted extra problem for Tepco and the Japanese authorities who have faced widespread criticism from home and abroad over their handling of the Fukushima crisis.