New 5.9 quake jolts Japan; Zeolite dropped in Pacific

Japanese engineers began dumping zeolite mineral to check sea water contamination near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2011, 22:50 PM IST

Tokyo/Fukushima: Japanese engineers began
dumping zeolite mineral to check sea water contamination
near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, even as desperate
efforts were launched on Saturday to combat the surge in the level
of highly radioactive water in the reactor`s tunnel.

As efforts continued to stabilise the plant, an
aftershock of 5.9 magnitude struck the Kanto region in eastern
Japan today at 11:19 am local time and was centred about 79 km
below the ground in southern Ibaraki prefecture, according to
the country`s Meteorological Agency.

There were no initial reports of damage from the
tremor, which shook buildings in Tokyo as well, more than a
month after a monster magnitude-9 quake and tsunami left
nearly 30,000 people dead or unaccounted for.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator
of the troubled plant has begun dropping sandbags containing
the mineral zeolite into the sea near the plant`s water
intakes. Zeolite is widely used to absorb contaminating
materials. TEPCO hopes the it will absorb toxic materials,
including cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, the
NHK news reported.

It plans to drop in 10 sandbags each containing 100
kilogrammes of zeolite. It will raise the bags at regular
intervals to check the radiation levels on their surfaces.

The 5.9 quake came hours after the government`s
nuclear safety agency asked operators of 13 nuclear plants
across the country to step up their preparation to avoid
outages and other damage to the facilities in the event of an
earthquake.
Last month`s twin disaster has caused massive damage
to the Fukushima nuclear plant, which continues to leak high
radiation into the air and sea.

TEPCO said the level of highly radioactive
water in a tunnel of the No.2 reactor has been rising,
national broadcaster NHK reported.

Contaminated water in the plant`s facilities is
hampering efforts to restore reactor cooling systems. Leakages
of such water into the sea and the ground are also raising
concern.

TEPCO transferred about 660 tonnes of wastewater from
the tunnel to a condenser in a turbine building on Wednesday.
This lowered the water level in the tunnel by 8 cm but it
began rising again, exceeding the previous level by 2.5 cm
this morning.

On TEPCO`s announcement that it would provide USD
12,000 in provisional compensation to each of 50,000 affected
households near the plant, some of the evacuees said the firm
should have made the decision earlier.

A 70-year-old woman was quoted as saying that the
money will be helpful at least for a while, but will certainly
not be enough if their evacuation is prolonged.

PTI