March 16, 2011 / 5:52 AM / 8 years ago

IAEA: Japan reactor building fire seen for 30 minutes

VIENNA (Reuters) - Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that a fire at a building housing a crippled reactor was seen at 2045 GMT on Tuesday, but could no longer be observed 30 minutes later, the Vienna-based agency said on Wednesday. In Japan, public broadcaster NHK earlier said flames were no longer visible at the building housing the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima plant, but TV pictures showed smoke or steam rising from the facility, damaged in last Friday’s earthquake, around 0100 GMT.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said:

“Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that a fire in the reactor building of unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was visually observed at (2045 GMT) ... As of (2115) of the same day, the fire could no longer be observed.”

An earlier fire at the same reactor unit lasted two hours before it was confirmed to have been extinguished at 0200 GMT on March 15, the IAEA said.

In another development at the Fukushima plant, it said operators had been planning to use a diesel generator to supply water to the No. 5 reactor unit after levels there fell on Tuesday, although they remained above the fuel.

Covering nuclear fuel with water is normally needed to prevent it from overheating. The IAEA earlier said the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors were shut down at the time of the massive earthquake, but they were loaded with fuel.

The IAEA said the water level decreased by 40 cm (15.7 in) to 201 cm above the fuel in the five hours to 1200 GMT on March 15.

“Officials at the plant were planning to use an operational diesel generator in unit 6 to supply water to unit 5,” it said.

It also cited Japanese authorities as saying the evacuation of people from a 20-km (12-mile) zone around the Fukushima plant had been successfully completed.

In an earlier statement, the agency said Japan had asked for IAEA expert teams to be sent to help with environmental monitoring and dealing with the effects of radiation on human health.

“Preparations for these missions are currently under way,” it said.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Michael Roddy

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