Japan: Workers struggle to block radiation leaking crack at N-plant

Radiation worries have compounded misery for tsunami-hit people in Japan.

Updated: Apr 03, 2011, 20:56 PM IST

Tokyo/Fukushima: Japanese workers` efforts
to seal a crack leaking radioactive water into the sea at the
Fukushima nuclear plant failed to yield any result on Sunday, as
the government said it may take several months to bring under
control the situation at the quake-hit facility.

Workers today injected water absorbent known as "water
gel bag", which contains polymeric materials used in diapers
that can soak up 50 times its volume in their bid to block the
leakage but the water flow remained unaffected, Japan`s
nuclear safety agency said.

According to Kyodo news agency, engineers working at
the plant injected eight kgs of the absorbent along with 60
kgs of sawdust and three bags of shredded newspaper into pipes
leading to a pit connected to the No. 2 reactor building.

The efforts were aimed at blocking the 20-centimetre
crack that has been found in the containment pit through which
highly radioactive water is seeping into the Pacific Ocean.

As workers struggled to seal the dangerous leak,
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano suggested that
the government was looking at a prolonged battle to resolve
the crisis at the stricken plant.

Edano told a press conference that it could take
several months before radiation stops leaking from the plant,
hit by the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent
tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11.

At the Fukushima nuclear plant where the water-
absorbing mission is on, the injected materials were sent
inside at a point 23 meters away from the seaside pit, but
have not been sucked into the water flow.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the governmental
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the fact that the
absorbent has not been sucked inside means there has been no
impact on the rate of leakage.

The plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)
will monitor the situation until tomorrow morning to examine
the effects of the massive efforts and will also try to trace
the route of the radioactive water leakage from the pit by
draining coloured water tomorrow.

The fresh attempt was made after TEPCO`s efforts to
encase the pit`s fracture in concrete failed yesterday.

Radioactive iodine-131 more than 10,000 times the
legal concentration limit was detected in the water found in
the pit. The water is believed to have come from the No. 2
reactor core, where fuel rods have partially melted.

Nishiyama, however, said that pits from the plant`s
other reactors have not been found having similar cracks.

As efforts continued at the plant, TEPCO said two of
its workers, who had been missing since the March 11 killer
quake and tsunami crippled the nuclear power station, were
found dead in the basement of a reactor`s building.

The workers, who were in their 20s, died of bleeding
from multiple injuries about an hour after the quake struck
the plant, it said, adding their bodies were found on
Wednesday last.

The Japanese and US personnel involved in a search
operation to find missing people after last month`s quake and
tsunami ended their three-day mission.

Officials said 77 bodies had been recovered as of
today but more than 15,000 people remain missing, Kyodo said.

The search operation involved 25,000 troops.
In the last day operations, divers at a port in
Minami-Sanriku Town in Miyagi Prefecture used sonar devices,
but were unable to find any bodies.

While the larger operation was abandoned on Sunday,
Japan`s Self-Defense Forces plan to continue the search
operation on a smaller scale.

The government, meanwhile, said that several months
may be required before radioactive particles` leak is stopped.

"If we apply methods considered to be normal, I
believe that it will be something like that," Chief Cabinet
Secretary Edano told reporters, when asked whether several
months would be required before the plant is brought under

"While it may not be feasible, we have been asking for
other possibilities to be explored to shorten that period,"
Edano said.

He also said the government would review whether it is
necessary to change the currently designated evacuation areas
once experts finish analysing the latest data as more
radiation monitoring samples have been collected in recent

Edano also said authorities had examined the thyroid
gland functions of around 900 infants and children living in
municipalities near the plant and none of them showed signs of
being affected by radiation.

Levels of radioactive materials have been skyrocketing
in the sea near the nuclear power plant, fuelling concerns
about the expansion of sea contamination and impact on fishery

In addition to efforts to block the radiation-
contaminated water leak, technicians were working to secure
enough space at tanks to remove radioactive water that has
been soaking the basement of the plant`s Nos. 1-3 reactors.

The stagnant water has been obstructing work to restore the
vital cooling functions at the reactors.

Later, engineers would also connect pumps used to
inject fresh water into the troubled reactors to an external
power source, switching from emergency diesel generators, to
stably pour in the coolant water, according to authorities.

Nishiyama said TEPCO would inject nitrogen into the
containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor on Tuesday or later to
help prevent the risk of more hydrogen explosions caused by
overheating of the reactor.

Once the mission to block the radiation leakage by the
absorbent is completed, TEPCO would try to move the
radioactive water in the pit to storage facilities to be
prepared at the plant, he said.