NHK Update : Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident in Japan

Robots face difficulties at Fukushima plant

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 12:48 +0900 (JST)

Tokyo Electric Power Company says radioactive debris and high humidity are hampering the investigation by robots at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The company began using remote-controlled robots to explore the first three reactor buildings on Sunday and Monday.

At the Number 2 reactor building, the robot’s camera lens was instantly clouded by high humidity.

TEPCO officials think that the steam is coming from the damaged section of the reactor’s suppression pool.
But they have not found a way to resolve the problem as the steam could be highly toxic.

Robots entered the Number 3 reactor building through the southern entrance, but their path was blocked by debris. The firm is considering using another robot that can remove obstacles weighing up to 100 kilograms.

At the first reactor building, robots were able to advance 40 meters along the northern side wall.

The use of robots is aimed at paving the way for staff to work inside the contaminated buildings to stabilize the reactors, but the prospects of success remain unclear.


Transfer begins of highly contaminated water


The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun transferring highly radioactive water from the No.2 reactor to a waste processing facility.

Ahead of the operation, Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, sealed cracks in the walls of the facility and ensured that other measures were in place to prevent contaminated water from leaking.

After the government’s nuclear safety agency checked procedures and safety measures, TEPCO began the operation on Tuesday morning.

About 25,000 tons of highly contaminated water has accumulated in the basement of the turbine building and a tunnel connected to the No.2 reactor. The water must be moved quickly, as it could escape into the ocean.

TEPCO says it plans to move about 480 tons of the water a day and it will take about 26 days to move about 10,000 tons to the waste facility near the No.4 reactor.

The utility firm estimates that about 67,500 tons of radioactive water has accumulated at the plant.

With more water being pumped into the reactors to restore the cooling system, the quantity is expected to rise and further hamper operations to bring the crisis under control.

Japan Atomic Industrial Forum


NRG Abandons Project for 2 Reactors in Texas

The New York Times: April 19, 2011

The company planning the largest nuclear project in the United States, two giant reactors in South Texas, announced on Tuesday that it was giving up and writing off its investment of $331 million after uncertainties created by the accident in Japan.

But the project — planned by NRG, a New Jersey-based independent power producer, and its minority partner, Toshiba — was in considerable doubt even before the accident at Fukushima began on March 11. Texas has a surplus of electricity and low prices for natural gas, which sets the price of electricity on the market there.

The project could go forward if circumstances changed, said David Crane, the chief executive of NRG, but he said the prospect of that occurring was “extremely daunting and at this point not particularly likely.”

The plan was for the South Texas Project 3 and 4 reactors, and was identified more than two years ago by the Energy Department as one of the four candidates for loan guarantees that were authorized by the 2005 Energy Act.

It is the second of the four to die; Calvert Cliffs 3, in Maryland, seems unlikely at this point, because Constellation Energy could not reach financial terms with the Energy Department. The department has granted a conditional loan guarantee to one project in Georgia and may give another to a project in South Carolina.

In a conference call with investment analysts on Tuesday evening, Mr. Crane said that to proceed with the project, the federal government would probably have to institute a “clean energy standard” that would create quotas for nuclear power, as states have already done for wind and solar.

He said that Toshiba, which is writing off $150 million for the project, would continue to pay to proceed with a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the time being, on the chance that a new investor could be found. But, he said, “we have concluded that financially, this is the end of the line for us.” If the plant goes forward, he said, “it will have to be funded by somebody else’s resources.”

The public’s appetite for nuclear power projects resembles the situation right after the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, said Charles A. Zielinski, a lawyer in Washington who is a former chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission. Companies now factor in the prospect of higher construction costs, mixed with a slack demand.

The South Texas Project “may have been on the fence already, and Fukushima pushed it over,” Mr. Zielinski said.

Tom Smith, an organizer in Austin with Public Citizen and a longtime campaigner against the project, cited higher construction costs and uncertainty after the Fukushima accident.

“The wheels are starting to fall off the nuclear renaissance,” he said