ISSN 2330-717X

IAEA Says Japan Nuclear Situation Serious, But ‘No Significant Worsening’

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The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants remains very serious, but there has been no significant worsening since yesterday, the IAEA said. Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that engineers were able to lay an external grid power line cable to unit 2. The operation was completed at 08:30 UTC, the IAEA said.

They plan to reconnect power to unit 2 once the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed, the IAEA said, adding that the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building was temporarily stopped at 11:09 UTC (20:09 local time) of 17 March.

At the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Graham Andrew, Special Adviser to the IAEA Director General on Scientific and Technical Affairs, briefed both Member States and the media on the current status of nuclear safety in Japan.

Current Situation

The current situation at Units 1, 2 and 3, whose cores have suffered damage, appears to be relatively stable. Sea water is being injected into all three units using fire extinguishing hoses. Containment pressures are fluctuating.

Military helicopters carried out four water drops over Unit 3, the IAEA said, noting that Unit 4 remains a major safety concern. No information is available on the level of water in the spent fuel pool. No water temperature indication from the Unit 4 spent fuel pool has been received since March 14, when the temperature was 84 degrees C.No roof is in place, the IAEA said.

Additionally, the IAEA said that the water levels in the reactor pressure vessels of Units 5 and 6 have been declining.

Radiation Monitoring

Map of Japan's Nuclear Power Plants. Source: Global Insight
Map of Japan's Nuclear Power Plants. Source: Global Insight

“We are now receiving dose rate information from 47 Japanese cities regularly. This is a positive development. In Tokyo, there has been no significant change in radiation levels since yesterday. They remain well below levels which are dangerous to human health,” the IAEA said, adding “As far as on-site radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants are concerned, we have received no new information since the last report.

In some locations at around 30km from the Fukushima plant, the dose rates rose significantly in the last 24 hours (in one location from 80 to 170 microsievert per hour and in another from 26 to 95 microsievert per hour). But this was not the case at all locations at this distance from the plants, the IAEA said.

Dose rates to the north-west of the nuclear power plants, were observed in the range 3 to 170 microsievert per hour, with the higher levels observed around 30 km from the plant.

Dose rates in other directions are in the 1 to 5 microsievert per hour range.

Agency Activities

The Director General, who is now on his way to Japan, had another conversation with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The UN Secretary-General pledged all possible support for the Agency’s efforts, the IAEA said.

The Director General also met the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, Tibor Toth, to discuss the possibility of the Agency gaining access to data collected by CTBTO radionuclide monitoring stations.

“A written request has been made to CTBTO. We believe the additional data and information could assist the Agency in our assessment of the evolving situation in Japan,” the IAEA said, adding that “A specialist from the World Meteorological Organization joined our team in the Incident and Emergency Centre earlier this week, providing expert advice on the possible trajectories of winds from the area of the power plants.”

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