A nuclear waste disposal facility being used to store radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant will soon be full, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said Monday.
The operator, known as Tepco, plans to suspend the extraction operation until mid-June once the facility becomes filled and until a new water treatment facility begins operating.
A temporary storage tank is being prepared but will not be ready until around early July, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the amount of contaminated water is expected to rise as the crippled reactors continue to leak and the rainy season sets in, possibly posing another challenge to stabilization work at the plant.
A Tepco official, however, said that levels are unlikely to rise rapidly even if extraction operations are suspended.
The waste disposal facility consists of four buildings. Tepco plans to use two that have been altered to better secure the highly contaminated water, with about 10,000 tons to be transferred from a tunnel near the No. 2 reactor.
As of Monday morning, roughly 8,700 tons had been diverted from the tunnel to the facility at a rate of 12 tons per hour, leaving space for about 1,300 tons of water, which will take about five more days to fill.
Tepco plans to extract 4,000 tons of tainted water from the No. 3 reactor’s turbine building as well. As of Monday morning, 2,700 tons had already been transferred after being diverted at 20 tons per hour, leaving space for about 1,300 tons, which will take about three days to fill.
Meanwhile, over 80,000 tons of water remains in or around reactors 1 to 4. Tepco plans to recycle it so it can be used to cool the cores of units 1 to 3.
Of the six reactors at the plant, units 1 to 3 still have fuel and must be stabilized.
The No. 4 reactor has no fuel in its core, but has spent-fuel assemblies sitting in a damaged storage pool above the reactor that need to remain submerged and cooled by constant water injections. Work intensified Monday to reinforce the pool by July, the officials said.
A blast at No. 4 in the early days of the crisis that was apparently triggered by hydrogen from No. 3 badly damaged one of the pool’s supporting walls.
Quake effect ruled out
The magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11 did not cause loss of cooling water at the Fukushima power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday, denying it played a role in the meltdown at reactor No. 1.
“We have determined that water cooling the reactors was not lost between the time of the earthquake and tsunami,” said Tepco official Junichi Matsumoto.
Tokyo said it will submit a report to the government, attributing the meltdown to the tsunami and make it public Tuesday.
The core of the No. 1 reactor melted within 16 hours of the quake, but high radiation levels inside on March 11 hinted the shaking damaged key facilities.
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