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Fukushima update: power lines installed, but workers evacuated due to steam release

In the second time in three days, workers were forced to evacuate from the Fukushima nuclear power station due to grey smoke billowing from the plant’s No. 3 reactor. However, TEPCO has said that radiation readings at the plant had not risen appreciably. Prior to the evacuation, technicians were getting closer to restoring power to the station, but cooling systems were still offline. On Tuesday, all of the reactors had been hooked up to power lines and TEPCO reported that it had restored power to the control rooms of reactors 1-4 and was testing instruments in the rooms before attempting to restore other systems. Reactors 5 and 6 have been cooled to safe levels, now that the second of their shared diesel-powered generators has returned to service. Workers were trying to fix a pump to the No.3 reactor’s spent fuel pool earlier today, while an extra-long armed spraying machine was deployed to pump water into that at the No.4 reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday said that: “There continue to be some improvements at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but the overall situation remains very serious. High levels of contamination have been measured in the locality of the plant. On the Fukushima site the highest concern remains the spent fuel and the storage ponds of each reactor unit, particularly Unit 4. Units 1 to 3 all remain area of concern, in particular Unit 2.”

Chubu Electric Power Co has said that it will delay the start of construction of a nuclear reactor at its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, 200km southwest of Tokyo, by a year to 2016, while it reviews its plans after the disaster. The utility currently has a fleet of three boiling water reactors at Hamaoka with a combined capacity of 3617MW and is currently preparing to decommission two older reactors. It relies on nuclear power for 14% of its generating capacity, compared to TEPCO’s 30%.

TEPCO is currently looking to obtain US$25bn in loans from banks and other lenders in order to make repairs and to fund claims for compensation. Its credit rating was downgraded by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor in the wake of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima. The Japanese government is currently estimating the total cost of the tsunami and earthquake at around US$309.26bn.

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