Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps, backup kicks in

TOKYO Sun Oct 6, 2013 11:37pm EDT

An aerial view shows workers wearing protective suits and masks working atop contaminated water storage tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co. REUTERS/Kyodo

An aerial view shows workers wearing protective suits and masks working atop contaminated water storage tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

TOKYO (Reuters) - The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said on Monday that pumps used to inject water to cool damaged reactors were hit by a power failure, but a backup system kicked in immediately.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said a worker conducting system inspections mistakenly pushed a button turning off power to some of the systems in the four reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, pours hundreds of tonnes of water a day over the reactors to keep them cool after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered meltdowns and hydrogen explosions.

Tepco said water was being pumped to the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at the plant and pools storing spent fuel rods were being cooled.

The latest incident is another reminder of the precarious state of the Fukushima plant, which has suffered a series of mishaps and accidents this year. Earlier this year, Tepco lost power to cool spent uranium fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after a rat tripped an electrical wire.

Tepco has come under increased scrutiny after it found in August that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the Fukushima site. Japan stepped up support for the embattled utility last month, pledging half a billion dollars to help contain contaminated water at Fukushima.

The utility is struggling to store massive amounts of contaminated water at the site while planning a complex decommission that could take decades to complete.

Shares in Tepco dropped by as much as 8.9 percent on Monday, to a 5-week low, and last traded at 488 yen, down 7.6 percent.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Shinichi Saoshiro and Ian Geoghegan)

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Comments (3)
Is this company really capable of operating a nuclear power plant? I would think anyone in Japan living near these plants would be very nervous. One mishap after another and all clearly preventable with intelligent management. Even the sunami catstrophe should have be part of a disaster management plan with safeguards and contingency plans in place.

Oct 07, 2013 2:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jobalz wrote:
Considering how important it is to maintain the cooling system to a nuclear reactor or storage facility, wouldn’t you think they’d place a cover or something over the “turn off power to cooling systems” switch, forcing you into a deliberate action of lifting or otherwise opening the cover before you could flip/push the switch so that it couldn’t be initiated accidentally?

Oct 07, 2013 3:33am EDT  --  Report as abuse
minutemanII wrote:
There’s no practical disaster plan for any nuclear power plant in the world, if Mother Nature’s wrath takes a direct hit. We should have learned, on day one, from Japan’s horrible misfortune, but we chose to ignore the warnings and listened to the hype from profit-making nuclear proponets about the benefits. Truth is, nobody is equipped to control or prevent a meltdown, and human error is always a threat. If we took this seriously, we’d get off the grid and grab onto what nature already provides…solar, water and wind power.

Oct 07, 2013 6:18am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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