Obstacles impede crews in Japan


Associated Press

TOKYO

Mounting problems, including badly miscalculated radiation figures and inadequate storage tanks for huge amounts of contaminated water, have stymied emergency workers struggling to nudge Japan’s stricken nuclear complex back from the edge of disaster.

Workers are attempting to remove the radioactive water from the tsunami-ravaged nuclear compound and restart the regular cooling systems for the dangerously hot fuel.

The day began Sunday with company officials reporting that radiation in leaking water in the Unit 2 reactor was 10 million times above normal, a spike that forced employees to flee the unit. The day ended with officials saying the huge figure had been miscalculated and offering apologies.

A few hours later, TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said a new test had found radiation levels 100,000 times above normal — far better than the first results, though still very high.

Officials acknowledged there was radioactive water in all four of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex’s most troubled reactors, and that airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour, four times the limit deemed safe by the government.

Back in the U.S., health officials said Sunday that one sample of Massachusetts rainwater has registered very low concentrations of radiation, most likely from the Japanese nuclear power plant. State officials said similar testing was done in California, Pennsylvania, Washington and other states, and showed comparable levels of I-131 in rain.

In Japan, the discovery late last week of pools of radioactive water has been a major setback in the mission to get the crucial cooling systems operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The magnitude-9 quake off Japan’s northeast coast March 11 triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant, complicating a humanitarian disaster that is thought to have killed about 18,000 people.

A magnitude-6.5 quake off the northeast coast this morning briefly prompted a tsunami warning, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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