Thu, May 19, 2011 - Page 5 News List

TEPCO workers enter Fukushima reactor building

AFP, TOKYO

A crack on a pavement is reflected on a logo of Tokyo Electric Power Co at its headquarters in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Workers briefly entered a reactor building at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichin nuclear power plant yesterday to measure radiation levels and check for damage, the operator said.

The investigation was part of work by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to bring reactors at the complex to a stable cold shutdown by next January at the latest.

Four employees in protective suits and with oxygen tanks on their backs entered the building housing the No. 2 reactor and left 14 minutes later, TEPCO said.

It was the first time anyone had gone in the No. 2 reactor building since an explosion on March 15.

A pair of remote-controlled robots entered last month, but high humidity clouded their lenses and prevented them from measuring radiation.

Earlier this month two workers entered another reactor building at the plant to gauge radiation levels.

There have been signs that damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was worse than initially thought following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which left about 25,000 people dead or missing.

Some radioactive runoff has leaked from dousing operations to cool the reactors and low-level contaminated water has had to be dumped into the sea.

Representatives of 620 fishermen along the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture, south of Fukushima, visited TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo yesterday, demanding the utility pay damages as they were forced to halt fishing.

They are claiming a total of ¥425 million (US$5.2 million) for loss of earnings in March, according to Isao Ono, one of the representatives.

Ibaraki fishermen were forced to stop catching a small fish known as konago, or sand lance, as the nuclear crisis took hold.

Some fishing has since been resumed partially, but “fish is not selling and prices have fallen due to rumors” of radiation contamination, Ono said, adding they would seek more compensation for sales losses from the radiation scare.

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