Japan starts removing highly toxic water from stricken reactor

Japan starts removing highly toxic water from stricken reactor

Tokyo/Fukushima: Workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Tuesday launched the key task of moving thousands of tonnes of highly toxic water from the basement of a reactor to a waste processing facility, as government mulled hiking consumption tax and power charges to raise funds for rebuilding the tsunami-hit northeast.

The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), began removing 25,000 tonnes of highly radioactive water in and around the No.2 reactor’s turbine building, which has an extremely high level of radiation exceeding 1,000 millisieverts per hour, after sealing cracks in walls of the unit and ensuring that all measures were in place to prevent toxic liquid from leaking.

Tepco plans to move about 480 tonnes of the water a day and it will take about 26 days to move about 10,000 tonnes to the waste facility near the No.4 reactor.

The toxic water in the basement of the turbine building and a tunnel connected to the No.2 reactor needs to be moved quickly as it could spread into the nearby sea. The total amount of contaminated water accumulating in the plant’s premises is estimated to be a little less than 70,000 tonnes.

Facing its worst atomic crisis in decades following the 11 March magnitude-9 quake and tsunami that left nearly 30,000 people dead or missing, the DPJ-led government is considering hiking the current 5% consumption tax to 8% for about 3 years to raise money for reconstruction of the northeast, party lawmakers were quoted as saying by Kyodo.

If it materialises, tax revenues will increase about ¥ 22.5 trillion and the amount will cover much of the extra expenditures for reconstruction expected in the current fiscal year, the senior lawmakers said.

The government has estimated that the damage from the natural calamities could amount to ¥ 25 trillion .

Besides, authorities are mulling increasing electricity charges to help cover damage payments to people who suffered losses due to the atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, government sources were quoted as saying.

Such a hike could help in providing a portion of the compensation payments that Tepco may not be able to shoulder, they said, amid concerns within government and the electric utility industry that it would effectively force all Japanese people to share the burden of damage payments.

Japanese officials also said the country would directly inform firms abroad, such as importers of Japanese products and shipping agents, of the crisis at the Fukushima plant, stepping up efforts to ease import restrictions overseas.

The Japanese diplomatic missions will hold briefings for firms in London, Beijing and Shanghai by the end of April 2011 to explain about the Fukushima emergency and its impact on the safety of Japanese farm and industrial products, they said.

Tokyo also plans to organise similar events in the US, Hong Kong and Europe later. To date, about 60 countries and regions have introduced import restrictions on Japanese products over radiation fears.