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Fukushima nuclear plant operator: no new safety concerns after Jan. 1 quake


The operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan said Tuesday it has no new safety worries and envisions no changes to the plant's decommissioning plans even after a deadly earthquake on Jan. 1 caused minor damage to another idled nuclear plant, rekindling concerns and prompting a regulatory body to order a close examination.

The magnitude-7.6 quake on New Year's Day and dozens of strong aftershocks in Japan's north-central region have left 222 people dead and 22 unaccounted for. The main quake also caused a small tsunami.

Two reactors at the Shika nuclear power plant on the western coast of the quake-struck Noto peninsula survived. But its operator, Hokuriku Electric Power Co., later reported temporary power outages due to damage to transformers, the spilling of radioactive water from spent fuel cooling pools and cracks on the ground, but no radiation leaked outside.

"At the moment, we believe there won't be any change to our (Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning) plan because of the Noto quake," said Akira Ono, the head of the decommissioning unit for Fukushima Daiichi at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO).

He said TEPCO's assessment confirmed the integrity of all Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings even in the potential case of a quake 1.5 times as powerful as the one that struck in March 2011.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that year destroyed key cooling systems at the plant, triggering triple meltdowns, spewing radioactive materials to surrounding areas and leaving some areas still unlivable.

Ono added that TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world's largest, which holds seven reactors in its complex and is located 118 kilometers east of the epicenter, had no major problems and would not require additional safety measures. But he said the utility would wait for nuclear safety regulators to review the impact of the Noto quakes.

He also acknowledged that the New Year's Day earthquake caught many people "off guard" and was a wakeup call for Fukushima Daiichi, where multiple operations are carried out, so it will be better prepared to contain potential risks from the used equipment or facilities that remain at the complex when another major quake or a tsunami hits.

(Cover via CFP.)

Source(s): AP
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