A power outage has left four fuel storage pools at Japan’s tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant without fresh cooling water for nearly 20 hours, raising concerns about a facility that still runs on makeshift equipment.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that pool temperatures at the plant were within safe levels and that pools would remain safe for at least four days without fresh cooling water. The utility said the reactors were unaffected and no other abnormalities were found.
The cooling system was restored at one of the four pools by mid-afternoon yesterday, and the systems for the three other pools are expected to resume by today as workers complete repairs and try to determine the cause the problem, TEPCO officials said.
Workers fixed the last of the three switchboards that they suspect as a possible cause of the problem and the utility was preparing a backup system in case the repairs did not the issue, TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono told reporters.
Japan’s March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s power and cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and fuel storage pools to overheat.
The power outage is a major test for TEPCO to show if it has learned from the disaster. TEPCO, which has faced several scandals, was slammed by local media yesterday for waiting to disclose the blackout.
Ono admitted that the plant was vulnerable.
“Fukushima Dai-ichi still runs on makeshift equipment and we are trying to switch to something more permanent and dependable, which is more desirable,” he said. “Considering the equipment situation, we may be pushing a little too hard.”
Ono said the utility did not immediately switch to a backup cooling system because doing so without fixing the cause could lead to a repeat of the problem.
Regulators have raised concerns about the makeshift equipment and urged the plant to switch to a more permanent arrangement.
TEPCO still has to remove radioactive fuel from the reactors before fully decommissioning the plant, which could take 40 years.
Chief Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga sought to allay concerns.
“In a sense, we have put in place measures that leave no room for worry,” Suga told reporters.