Tepco succeeds in plugging leak

Reactor to be injected with nitrogen to avert hydrogen blast

by Masami Ito

Tokyo Electric Power Co. finally succeeded in stopping the main leak of highly radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the ocean Wednesday morning and workers were preparing to inject nitrogen into at least one reactor in a bid to prevent another hydrogen explosion.

Tepco said it confirmed at 5:38 a.m. that a crack in the No. 2 reactor storage pit had been plugged after workers injected 1,500 liters of sodium silicate and another agent to solidify a layer of small stones under a cable trench.

“I have been told that it is being thoroughly looked into whether the leak has completely stopped and whether there are other (cracks),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “We have not stopped worrying just because the leak supposedly stopped.”

The highly radioactive water is believed to have come from the No. 2 reactor core, where fuel rods have partially melted, and ended up in the pit. The pit is connected to the No. 2 reactor turbine building and an underground trench connected to the building, both of which were found to be filled with high levels of contaminated water.

To make room to store the highly radioactive water that is hampering repair work at the plant, Tepco continued to discharge massive amounts of low-level contaminated water from inside a nuclear waste disposal facility at the site and from around the No. 5 and 6 reactor buildings.

As of 6:30 a.m., about 10,000 tons of low-level radioactive water had been discharged and about 600 tons were left, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Edano meanwhile apologized to fishermen and said those whose catches have been affected by the release of low-level radioactive water should be compensated. He also apologized to neighboring countries, including South Korea, which have expressed deep concern at the lack of information from the Japanese government prior to its decision Monday to release low-level radioactive water from the nuclear plant into the sea.

“We must earnestly accept words that we should have explained the situation in detail and more thoroughly to related ministries and neighboring states before the release,” Edano said. “It was to prevent further leaking of (highly radioactive) water into the sea, but we should have thoroughly explained the situation beforehand.”

Meanwhile, excessive levels of radioactive cesium were detected in young sand lances in the sea off northern Ibaraki Prefecture.

Given the development, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations issued a statement Wednesday slamming Tepco and the government.

“It is natural that the damage to and effects on the marine industry be included in the compensation” program along with the agricultural products, Edano said.

Tepco revealed Tuesday it hopes to provide provisional compensation to locals and farmers near the plant. Details have yet to be worked out but the utility said it has begun consulting with the government.

Tepco said Wednesday that workers were set to inject nitrogen into reactor No. 1 later in the day to prevent another hydrogen explosion like the one in the reactor on March 12. They are also considering injecting nitrogen into reactors 2 and 3.

Information from Kyodo added