JAPAN | Gov’t to set up body to study reactor decommissioning

Posted on July 13, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 13 july 2011

In this image released Saturday, April 16, 2011, by Tokyo Electric Power Co., top of the container of the nuclear reactor, painted in yellow, of Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant is observed from its side with a T-Hawk drone Friday, April 15, 2011 in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The government asked its nuclear policy commission to set up a body to consider medium- to long-term steps for handling the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the current crisis is over, such as how to remove melted fuel and decommission the crippled reactors, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday.

The remarks came as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. is expected to realize the stable cooling of troubled reactors later this month and move toward the next goal of stabilizing them by so-called cold shutdown, although the plant’s key water treatment system again saw a leakage problem Tuesday.

Discussions of the kind have already begun centering on the Atomic Energy Commission, comprising five commissioners, but Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of nuclear accidents, said in a press conference in the morning he has asked the commission, an organ of the Cabinet Office, that discussions be conducted at a formal forum.

As for the melted nuclear fuel rods and spent fuel being left inside the plant, Hosono said, “We must find a way not to make Fukushima Prefecture the final disposal site. But I’m sorry for the people in Fukushima because (the fuel) will remain there for an extremely long time.”

In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), a small fire breaks out from facilities sampling seawater located a few dozen meters from Unit 4 inside the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Tuesday morning, April 12, 2011. The fire was put out soon and the ongoing cooling operations at the main units were not affected according to TEPCO. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Efforts to restore the plant continued Tuesday, with a system to decontaminate highly radioactive water resuming operations in the afternoon after replacement of a leak-causing component, according to Tokyo Electric spokesman Junichi Matsumoto.

Designed to recycle decontaminated water as a coolant for the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors, the system must run smoothly to eventually contain the ongoing nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami. It also reduces the massive amount of highly radioactive water accumulating on the plant premises as a side effect of injecting water to cool the reactors.

The latest leakage was found in the installation developed by France’s Areva SA. After similar trouble detected Sunday, Tokyo Electric had replaced the component from a plastic one to an iron one, apparently to no avail.

Matsumoto said during a joint press conference with Hosono and other government officials that workers used a component made of stainless steel on Tuesday to address the trouble.

In this March 24, 2011 file aerial photo taken by a small unmanned drone and released by AIR PHOTO SERVICE, damaged Unit 4 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE)

Meanwhile, workers also prepared to inject nitrogen into the No. 3 reactor to reduce the risk of further hydrogen explosions. Nitrogen is already being injected into the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors.

Hosono said he was happy that workers finished installing a hose to inject nitrogen into the No. 3 unit by overcoming the high radiation level seen inside the building.

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