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The earthquake may have complicated Japan’s nuclear plant shutdown

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File – On September 4, 2017, the air file photo shows the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors, from bottom to right, Unit 1, Unit 2 and Unit 3, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. The facility that operates the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant said Friday, February 19, 2021, that it had discovered low levels of cooling water in two of its three molten reactors over the past few days, apparently due to additional damage to its reactors from a strong earthquake that shook the area at the end. Last week (Daisuke Suzuki / Kyodo News via AP, File)

The operator said on Friday that cooling water levels have decreased at two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a strong earthquake struck the area last weekend, indicating the possibility of additional damage.

New damage could further complicate the already difficult plant decommissioning, which is expected to take decades.

Tokyo Electric Corporation spokesman Keisuke Matsu said the drop in water levels at the Unit 1 and Unit 3 reactors indicated that the current damage to the primary containment rooms had been exacerbated by the 7.3-magnitude earthquake last weekend, allowing more water to seep in.

He indicated that he believed that the leaked water remained inside the reactor buildings, and there was no indication of any external influence.

In 2011, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake and tsunami damaged the cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing three reactor cores to melt and nuclear fuel to fall to the bottom of the primary containment vessels.

Matsu said Tokyo Electric Power Corporation will monitor water and temperatures at the bottom of the containment containers.

Since the 2011 disaster, cooling water has been continuously seeping from damaged primary containment vessels into the basements of the reactor buildings. To compensate for the loss, additional cooling water was pumped into the reactors to cool the molten fuel remaining inside. The facility said the recent drop in water levels indicated more water leakage than before.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency reports that more than 180 people were mostly lightly injured in the February 13 earthquake. The quake also triggered landslides, damaged homes and a high-speed train line, and caused widespread power and water cuts.

Tokyo Electric Power Corporation initially stated that there was no failure at the plant from the earthquake.

Matsu said that the cooling water level decreased by 27 inches in the unit 1 reactor’s initial containment chamber and about 11 inches in Unit 3. The instrument was unable to identify any drop in Unit 2 because the indicators were moved to and added: Preparedness to remove dissolved debris.

The increased leakage may require more cooling water to be pumped into the reactors, which could result in more contaminated water being treated and stored in huge tanks in the factory. The facility says its storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full next summer. The recommendation of a government committee to gradually release it into the sea faced strong opposition from the local population and the decision is still pending.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo High Court on Friday held the government as well as the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation responsible for the 2011 nuclear disaster, ordering both to pay about $ 2.6 million in compensation to more than 40 plaintiffs who were forced to evacuate to Chiba, near Tokyo, because they lost their means. Their livelihoods and their homes.

Friday’s decision overturns an earlier ruling by Chiba County Court exempting the government from liability. Judge Yukio Shirai said the government could have anticipated the tsunami risk and took action after a long-term assessment in 2002 of seismic activities.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs welcomed the decision, saying it would affect other pending cases.

“The case raises the question of whether we should tolerate a society that prioritizes economic activities over people’s lives and health,” said Izotaro Manji, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

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