UPDATE: As of 6:00 PM, TEPCO says the power has been restored, and the cooling system has returned to operation.
For the second time in three weeks, the cooling system failed at a storage pool for fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They are still investigating the cause of the failure at reactor No. 3 but Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that it will take two weeks for the temperatures to approach danger levels so there is no cause for alarm at this point in time.
Nuclear Regulation Authority spokesman Takahiro Sakuma said that the alarm sounded at 2:27PM Friday, alerting the facility that there was a problem at the pool attached to reactor No.3. Upon inspection by the technicians, they confirmed that the cooling system was not working. While there is no danger at this moment, if the water runs dry at the pool, the fuel rods will emit extensive amounts of radiation. But a TEPCO spokesperson assured the NRA and the public that they are expecting to fix the problem and restore the system by Friday evening.
Last March 19, a blackout at the facility temporarily suspended the cooling operations at the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 units plus six other facilities at the plant for a few days. After an investigation, they concluded that the power outage was caused by a rat that was found dead near the switchboard.
While that incident and this new one will probably not cause any further and immediate damage to the plant, it raises questions about TEPCO‘s ability to properly decommission the plant. Fukushima was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that caused a nuclear meltdown, the worst in recent history. It also caused the evacuation of the towns surrounding the plant, and residents are still unable to go back to their homes due to radiation issues. The decommissioning of the plant and the return to normal of radiation levels will probably take decades, according to nuclear experts. Meanwhile, only 2 out of the 50 working nuclear plants are active, and anti-nuclear sentiment is at an all-time high, due to more awareness about the inherent dangers that come with this power source. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the government is working towards restarting some of the nuclear plants that will pass the new safety standards finalized by the NRA. Japan at present does not have enough natural resources for its high electricity needs. Expensive energy imports have drained the economy and so the imminent restarting of nuclear plants is all but certain.
[ via The Republic ]