Japanese energy supplier Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) announced that it would open the airlock to the Number 2 reactor building at the damaged Fukushima power plant for the first time since it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March. TEPCO will allow repair crews inside to begin the process of cooling down the reactor. The crews will conduct checks on the measuring tools inside the plant, as well as inject nitrogen into the reactor to try to prevent an explosion.
The process of opening the building will take around eight hours to complete, progressing slowly as to not disturb the contaminated dust inside the building.
TEPCO has authorized the opening of this specific building because it has exhibited internal radiation levels below those of units 1 and 3.
Report & Analysis: Japan to open airlock at crippled nuclear plant [CNN, 19 Jun 2011]
To date, workers have cooled reactor cores and fuel rod pools by pumping seawater into the reactors at the Fukushima plant, and have left over 100,000 tonnes of water in unsecured areas; much of it has leaked into the ocean.
A recent survey by the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, conducted to gauge Japanese opinion towards nuclear power, found that four out of five Japanese (approximately 82%) would prefer Japan to stop all nuclear power production following the disaster.
Still, of that number, 54% advocated a gradual approach to the decommissioning, responding that they would prefer to close the reactors when electricity supply and demand allowed for it (as opposed to the 9% that wanted them to be shut immediately).
Japan currently received a third of its total power supply from nuclear power, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan has stated that he remains committed to nuclear power as a part of the supply plan.
Report & Analysis: TEPCO to open second Fukushima reactor building [AFP, 19 Jun 2011]
Meanwhile, the IAEA criticised Japan’s response to the nuclear crisis, pointing to its failure to implement the UN convention on dealing with nuclear emergencies in its response efforts. While the safety standards are not binding, the agency noted that Japan never improved its anti-tsunami measures, following agency recommendations in 2002.
Despite the criticisms the watchdog agency praised Japan’s response to the disaster, calling it “exemplary.”
The full IAEA report will be made available to the 151 member states at a five day ministerial conference on nuclear safety that is to commence Monday, June 20.
Report & Analysis: Nuclear watchdog slams Japan reaction to Fukushima [Channel News Asia, 19 Jun 2011]