TOKYO — Hundreds of water tanks are to be sent to Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to hold thousands of tons of water contaminated in the effort to keep its reactors cool, the operator said Sunday.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has sourced 370 tanks with a total capacity for more than 40,000 tons of radioactive water, a company spokeswoman said.
“Two of the tanks got on the way to the plant late Saturday,” said TEPCO spokeswoman Ai Tanaka, adding that they would reach the site in two days or so. “It will be in mid-August that all the 370 tanks will get to the plant.”
Those tanks are kept in open space storage in Tochigi prefecture, south of Fukushima, will all be transported to the plant by road, she said.
A massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and monster tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the plant on the Pacific coast on March 11.
In a stop-gap measure to contain the emergency at the plant, workers have been pouring massive amounts of water onto reactors where fuel rods are reported to have melted, and topped up pools for spent fuel rods.
A huge floating structure to hold radioactive water was berthed at the quay by the plant in May to contain part of nearly 90,000 tons of contaminated water stored at the facility.
TEPCO said Saturday workers had spotted video footage of steam rising from a crevice between a pipe and the floor of a reactor building.
Radiation levels as high as 4,000 millisievert per hour were detected from the nearby atmosphere, way above the safe level for workers to enter the area, it said.
Workers at the plant are now focusing on setting up a water reprocessing facility in order to start cleaning contaminated water from mid-June, Tanaka said.
The facility, provided by French nuclear group Areva and other companies, is expected to lower the radiation levels of the contaminated water to about one ten-thousandth.
But as summer approaches, the environment is becoming more severe for workers who have to wear heavy protective suits.
On Sunday, two workers, both men in their 40s, were taken to hospital with heatstroke, a second company spokeswoman said, while another worker had fallen ill on Saturday with chest pains and heatstroke.
TEPCO has said it hopes to bring the plant to a stable state of “cold shutdown” between October and January.