Japan considers covering leaking nuke reactors

Updated: 2011-03-30 22:05


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Japan considers covering leaking nuke reactors
A medical staff screens a boy for signs of nuclear radiation at an evacuation centre in Fukushima, northern Japan March 30, 2011. [Photo/Agencies] 

TOKYO - Japan's government is talking to nuclear experts about taking the unprecedented measure of covering three badly damaged nuclear reactor buildings at the stricken Daiichi facility with special covers as the plant's operator struggles to contain radiation from leaking, local media reported Wednesday.

Seawater near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility's No.1 reactor contained radioactive iodine at 3,355 times the legal limit and a spokesperson for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said and extraordinary measures must now be taken.

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"The (radiation) figures are rising further," said the agency's Deputy Director-General Hidehiko Nishiyama. "We need to find out as quickly as possible the cause and stop them from rising any higher."

"We are in an unprecedented situation, so we need to think about different strategies, beyond those we normally think about," he added.

Based on the escalating crisis at the Fukushima plant, which was crippled following being pounded by the March 11 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami, local media reports said that Japan's government is now considering covering three of the facility's outer reactor buildings with special fabric caps and fitting air filters to limit radiation leakage.

The government has also floated the idea of anchoring an empty tanker near the troubled No. 2 reactor building so that workers can pump several Olympic swimming pools worth of highly- radioactive water into its storage facilities, to be disposed of elsewhere.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference earlier Wednesday that the government and nuclear experts are discussing "every possibility" to bring the plant under control.

The nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said that all the faltering reactors, some of which have had their nuclear cores melted exposing fuel rods to the atmosphere, are stabilizing. But despite ongoing efforts to cool the reactors and get the plant online before a cold shutdown, TEPCO said today that reactors No. 1 to No. 4 are still not under control.

The situation has been deteriorated by a lack of funds as the crisis has wiped off nearly $29 billion or more than 30 percent of the company's market value and investors have been dumping the firm's shares which have seen TEPCO plummet to record lows on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

TEPCO is in talks with the government over extra funding and wants to avoid nationalization, although the central government is considering either temporarily nationalizing Tepco via legal bankruptcy proceedings, or effective nationalization based on assets in excess of liabilities, sources close to the matter said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his top government spokesperson have both said the complex will likely be decommissioned once the crisis has been brought under complete control.


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