Japanese police have confirmed today that the death toll from this month’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami in north east Japan has now risen to 8,649 and it fears that at least half of the 13,000 people that are still missing are now dead. But more happily, there has been some progress in stabilising the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that there has been some progress, although in a briefing yesterday Graham Andrew, Special Adviser to the IAEA Director General on Scientific and Technical Affairs said the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains ‘very serious’.
He said: “Efforts to restore electrical power to the site continue. Off-site electrical power has been connected to the local substation for Unit 2 today. Work is continuing under difficult conditions to connect power from the sub-station to the reactor building. Seawater is still being injected into the reactor pressure vessels of Units 1, 2 and 3. Water injection is not needed for Unit 4 as the reactor is in outage.
“White smoke or vapour from Unit 3 is still being observed, but it is less intense than on previous days. Spraying of the reactor building with water is in progress.
“Following an initial rise in pressure in the Unit 3 reactor pressure vessel, plans were made to vent the vessel should it become necessary. However, from information recently provided by NISA they have decided not to vent as the vessel pressure has started to reduce.
COOLING RESTORED IN SOME REACTORS
“The situation in the reactor spent fuel pools is relatively stable, but is still of concern. Spraying of water into the pool of Unit 4 started yesterday. The Agency still lacks data on water levels and temperatures at the spent fuel pools at Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.
“A positive development is that cooling has been restored to the reactor pressure vessels in Units 5 and 6. Temperatures in the spent fuel pools at these two units, which had been rising in the last few days, have now fallen significantly to around 40 degrees centigrade from a maximum of about 69 degrees yesterday. Two diesel generators, one for each Unit, are providing electricity.”
Graham Andrew said that radiation levels in major Japanese cities have not changed significantly since Saturday and remain below those which are dangerous to human health.
He said: “The IAEA radiation monitoring team took additional measurements on Saturday between Tokyo and locations up to 150km from the Fukushima site. Dose rates were typically a few microsieverts per hour compared to a typical background level of around 0.1 microsieverts per hour.
From the measurements taken within the exclusion zone, no significant alpha radiation has been detected so far.”
Asia & Pacific,
Asia & Pacific,