[ RadSafe ] Japan: pouring tonnes of concrete on the reactors

Ahmad Al-Ani ahmadalanimail at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 31 05:38:28 CDT 2011

Fukushima nuclear plant to be entombed in concrete as Japan admits it has lost battle with crippled reactors

Sourcee: http://tinyurl.com/68fb2ms

Fukushima nuclear plant to be entombed in concrete as Japan admits it has lost battle with crippled reactors
By Richard Shears
Last updated at 11:01 AM on 31st March 2011

Japan has finally conceded defeat in the battle to contain radiation at four of its crippled reactors and they will be closed down.

Details of how this will be done are yet to be revealed, but officials said it would mean switching off all power and abandoning attempts to keep the nuclear fuel rods cool.

The final move would involve pouring tonnes of concrete on the reactors to seal them in tombs and ensure radiation does not leak out.

The dramatic announcement that the four reactors are out of control and will have to be decommissioned was made yesterday by the chairman of the electric company operating the Fukushima plant.

With a deep bow and a grimace, Mr Tsunehisa Katsumata finally offered a humble apology for the failure to stop the leakage of radiation.

His face pale as he spoke in Tokyo, Mr Katsumata said he felt particularly sorry for people who have had to flee from their homes or even refrain from stepping outside while they have been trying to cope with the impact of the March 11 earthquake and aftershocks.

In admitting that four of the troubled reactors would have to be shut down for good, he left no doubt in the minds of observers that he knew the battle to keep their fuel rods cool could not be won.

'I am very sorry for the trouble and anxiety caused by the radiation leaks,' said Mr Katsumata, speaking in public for the first time since problems at the plant surfaced in the days following the earthquake and tsunami.

'We've not been able to cool the reactors but we are employing maximum efforts to stabilise them,' he said.

Yesterday the levels of radiation in the ocean was measured at 3,355 times above the standard.

Officials have attempted to downplay the dangers posed by the high presence of radioactive isotopes in the water, saying that the iodine-131 isotope loses half of its radiation every eight days.

But amounts of the cesium-137 isotope - which has a 30-year 'half life' - have also soared to 527 times the normal level.

Michael Friedlander, a U.S. based nuclear engineer, told CNN: 'That's the one I am worried about.

'Plankton absorbs the cesium, the fish eat the plankton, the bigger fish eat smaller fish - so every step you go up the food chain, the concentration of cesium gets higher.'

Fishing is not allowed with 12 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but authorities still do not know where the radioactive water is coming from.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the stricken plant, was preparing itself to compensate for people's losses and damage - 'according to the law' - caused by the radiation leaks.

But it warned that a $24billion bank loan would not be enough to keep it afloat and pay for Japan's worst nuclear disaster without a government bail out.

Asia's largest utility, TEPCO has seen its share price crash 80 per cent since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami sparked the crisis.

It is also facing a massive compensation bill, thought to be as much as $12billion, as a result of the nuclear disaster.

Japan's prime minister and other figures have heavily criticised TEPCO for its handling of the disaster.

Public mistrust in the company after a series of confusing radiation readings were issued has exacerbated the problem.

Yesterday, TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu was taken to hospital suffering from high blood pressure and dizziness.

He has not been seen in public since a March 13 press briefing amid speculation about his leadership.

Chairman Katsumata has taken over his responsibilities and said: 'There are lots of discussion about nationalisation, but I will do my best to ensure TEPCO remains as a private company.'

Mr Katsumata referred to farmers and fishermen in the Fukushima region whose products - leafy green vegetables, milk and coastal-swimming fish  - are feared to have been contaminated by radiation poisoning.

Mr Katsumata also had to apologise for the inconvenience caused by his company's rolling blackouts that have affected the entire main island of Honshu.

He left no doubts that the blackouts would continue for a long time - he said his company would do its best to work closely with the government to minimise or even avoid rolling blackouts during the coming summer.

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