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Tokyo firefighters blast over 60 tons of water on No. 3 reactor

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the water spraying operations at the No. 3 reactor had been "successful" and the situation at the reactor had been "stabilized." -The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

Sun, Mar 20, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

FUKUSHIMA, Japan - As the world watched, efforts continued Saturday to avert a disaster at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, with personnel trying to restore power to damaged reactors and the Self-Defense Forces and firefighters persevering in their water-spraying mission.

Connecting an outside power supply to the nuclear plant would enable cooling functions to be restored at the No. 2 reactor, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The containment vessel at this reactor is feared to have been damaged in the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck March 11. TEPCO said it aimed to restore power Saturday.

Meanwhile, a special team from the Tokyo Fire Department blasted water on the No. 3 reactor early Saturday and again in the afternoon.

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the water spraying operations at the No. 3 reactor had been "successful" and the situation at the reactor had been "stabilized."

Work to restore electricity was being done in three separate reactor groups--Nos. 1 and 2; Nos. 3 and 4; and Nos. 5 and 6. The highest priority was the No. 2 reactor, TEPCO said.

The utility firm parked a vehicle with power distribution devices near the No. 1 reactor Friday, and connected the devices with cables to the No. 2 reactor's power distribution board-cum-transformer at the turbine building. On Saturday, company workers were busy laying about 1.5 kilometers of cable inside the plant.

At the No. 6 reactor, its second emergency diesel power generator was repaired at 4:22 a.m. Saturday. With the generator able to provide electricity, TEPCO could activate the heat exchanger at the No. 5 reactor's temporary storage pool for spent nuclear fuel rods, which decreased the temperature in the pool by about 1 C. Until then, TEPCO had only one emergency generator at the No. 6 reactor that it used to circulate water in spent fuel rod pools at the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors. However, this did not prevent temperatures in the pools from rising.

TEPCO also drilled holes in the roofs of the buildings housing the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors to prevent hydrogen explosions.

Two more vehicles equipped with power distribution devices were placed at the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors. On Saturday, TEPCO was trying to repair high-voltage cables that had been disconnected after the earthquake, and was also laying cable to the No. 4 reactor's power distributor, the firm said.

The utility hoped to restore power to reactors 1, 2, 5 and 6 on Saturday, and to the remaining two on Sunday.

The government's Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency said radiation levels inside the power station were more than 5,000 microsieverts per hour north of the main office building, about half a kilometer northwest of the No. 3 reactor, at 5 p.m. Friday. Radiation at this location decreased to 3,181 microsieverts per hour at 1:50 a.m. Saturday, a reduction of about 40 percent.

Although this is lower than the 250,000 microsieverts emergency workers are allowed to be exposed to in special circumstances, levels remained high. High radiation means work near the reactor buildings needed to proceed carefully.

Near the west gate, about 1.1 kilometers west of the No. 3 reactor, radiation was measured at 830.8 microsieverts per hour at 8:10 a.m. Saturday, but had decreased to 364.5 microsieverts at 9 a.m., TEPCO added.

The fire department said it was planning to spray water on the No. 3 reactor for seven hours on Saturday.

On Friday, Self-Defense Forces fire engines sprayed the No. 3 reactor. They were joined by a chemical pumper on loan from the U.S. Yokosuka naval base, operated by two employees of a TEPCO subsidiary.

Tokyo firefighters sprayed about 60 tons of seawater toward the temporary storage pool at the No. 3 reactor in about 20 minutes from 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The fire department resumed its mission at 2:05 p.m.

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