Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kyodo news: Radioactivity at No. 1 reduced to acceptable levels Tepco opens doors at reactor for ventilation

 Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the doors of the No. 1 reactor building at the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were opened Sunday, paving the way for the utility to proceed with efforts to stabilize the most severely damaged unit at the plant.

                                                                                                              Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
 Logo of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (TEPCO) is seen at the company's head office in Tokyo April 1, 2011.

 The move came after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency gave its seal of approval, saying that opening the double-entry doors at the troubled facility would not have a serious impact on the environment.
 Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, said it planned to send workers into the reactor building at 4 a.m. Monday to measure its radioactivity. The utility, which said earlier in the day that the level of radioactive materials in the No. 1 reactor building is low enough to let workers open the doors and get to work, said it had notified local governments after obtaining the nuclear agency's approval.
 Japan also informed foreign governments about the plan, said Goshi Hosono, one of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's aides.
 Tepco said that even if radioactive substances are released from the building as a result of opening the doors, the radiation level within the plant's premises would still be well below 1 millisievert — the level that a person is typically exposed to annually.
 Tepco has been struggling to bring the six-reactor complex in Fukushima Prefecture under control ever since the March 11 tsunami triggered by a major earthquake knocked out the plant's cooling functions and crippled reactors 1 through 3, allowing some of the nuclear fuel inside their cores to melt.
 Radiation levels rose Friday, but Tepco said it occurred because the ventilator stirred the air inside the building, leading to a temporary spike.
 The lower levels would reduce the risk of plant workers being exposed to elevated levels of radiation when they build a new cooling system for the reactor inside the building.
 Meanwhile, conditions at the No. 3 reactor were taking a turn for the worse, with the temperature of its pressure vessel rising once again.
 The upper part of No. 3's pressure vessel had risen to 206 degrees as of 5 a.m. Sunday, up from 163 degrees at 11 a.m. Saturday, prompting the utility to monitor it more closely.
 Its current temperature, however, is still lower than the 286 degrees usually seen during normal operations, it said.
 In a related development, the government decided to let the fishing industry operate in waters outside a 30-km radius from the plant, allowing workers to fish and remove rubble from the sea.
 The decision was based on estimates that fishermen would be exposed to no more than 1.43 millisieverts of radiation per year in such waters, officials said Sunday.


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