Japan employs new tactics to avert nuclear catastrophe (2)

17:19, March 18, 2011      

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Meanwhile, TEPCO engineers are laboring through the night to lay a power line to the No. 2 reactor in hopes of restoring the cooling system that pumps water into the fuel rods pool.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said early Friday TEPCO had managed to get a power line into the facility, but it would take 10 to 15 hours to connect the line to the power system.

"Preparatory work has so far not progressed as fast as we had hoped," a TEPCO official told a news briefing.

A cold snap and heavy radiation, which could be lethal to workers, had hampered the power restoration efforts, he said.

With curbing the overheating of the No.3 and No.4 reactors being the top priority, restoration of the reactors' cooling system has been given secondary priority by the Japanese government.

However, Harold Denton, who headed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission team in the handling of the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis in the United States, said power was a crucial element.

"Power is the lifeblood for a power plant," he said. "If you've got power, you can do a lot, but if you don't have any power, the water in the reactor vessels heats up and boils away and the fuel begins to melt. It's a problem they've gotten into now."

Japan's nuclear crisis began after a historic 9.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the six-reactor complex and the ensuing tsunami doused electrical equipment for about an hour, crippling the plant's power system.

In the days that followed, overheating inside the reactors led to two fires and four powerful hydrogen blasts as well as a partial meltdown at the nuclear facility.

On Friday morning, vapor was seen billowing from No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima complex, but a nuclear safety agency spokesman said the cause of the smoke had yet to be identified, adding that an explosion earlier this week could have damaged a chamber next to the nuclear fuel rod pool, the core of the system.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who headed to Japan Thursday, said Friday the nuclear crisis in Japan was an extremely serious accident that required international cooperation.

"We see it as an extremely serious accident. The international community is extremely concerned about this issue, and it's important to cooperate in dealing with it," Amano said.

Source: Xinhua

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