The system used to cool spent nuclear fuel at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has been hit by a power cut. The plant’s operators say there is no immediate danger, although they are unsure exactly what caused the problem.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said on Tuesday that despite the failure of the cooling system temperatures of the pools in which the fuel was stored would remain safe for at least four days.
Equipment used to keep the pools cool - and prevent any spontaneous nuclear reaction - by pumping cool water into them has had no power since Monday evening. While a solution was being sought to fix the problem, company official Masayuki Ono said, a back up system was being prepared to ensure there was no danger. "If worse comes to worst, we have a backup water injection system," said Ono.
The company said it was trying to fix a broken power distribution board that may be the cause of the problem. Damage to surrounding cables was another possible cause, according to Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority.
'No danger to reactors'
Pools serving three of six reactors at the crippled power plant had been affected, the company said. Cooling operations on three reactors that underwent meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami were reported not to have been compromised.
The Japanese government on Tuesday backed TEPCO over the power outage, saying there appeared to be no danger of an immediate crisis. "As they are planning to take all possible substitute measures for cooling, we do not need to worry at all in a sense," said Chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga.
TEPCO has been heavily criticized for its handling of the disaster two years ago, in particular its downplaying of the dangers posed. Since the tsunami paralyzed plant cooling and power systems, the operators have been using makeshift systems to prevent overheating.
rc /rg (AFP, AP, dpa)