Japan uses colour dye to trace nuclear leak

2011-04-04 07:34

Ofunato – Emergency crew at Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant used a colour dye today to trace the source of a radioactive leak as lower business confidence signalled the disaster’s economic impact.

While round-the-clock work continued to prevent a wider catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo’s officials at UN climate talks reportedly suggested Japan may have to back off ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions.

Tokyo Electric Power, owner of the troubled nuclear site, has been struggling to regain control since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11 knocked out its cooling systems, leading fuel rods to overheat and threatening a meltdown.

An immediate concern is a radioactive leak into the ocean through a cracked concrete pit, which has continued despite efforts to stem the flow in a pipe upstream with a polymer capable of absorbing 50 times its own volume in water.

“There is no significant change in the amount of water leaking. We haven’t achieved the original goal of stopping the water,” said a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, Japan’s largest power provider.

Tokyo Electric Power workers started pouring white powder into a tunnel from reactor number two, to ascertain if it is the origin of the contaminant leaking out into the Pacific Ocean, where high iodine-131 levels have been detected.

If the polymer fails to plug the leak, “we will consider solidifying the soil around the pit to prevent water from seeping through”, a Tokyo Electric Power official told a briefing, adding that chemicals might be employed.

Since the quake struck more than three weeks ago, throwing Japan into its worst post-war calamity, fears have mounted over the impact on the world’s third-largest economy, and a survey today suggested the hurt could be massive.

The Bank of Japan said in its Tankan survey that Japanese business confidence is set to plunge in the months ahead.

The central bank’s release of a quarterly survey from Friday showed the breakdown in the replies it received before and after the disasters.

Friday’s report showed business sentiment among large manufacturers improving to “six” in March from “five” in December, but it was predicted to fall to “minus two” in the April-June period.

One of the big question marks is how the Japanese economy will be affected by a looming power shortage, triggered when the quake and tsunami knocked out a sizable portion of the nation’s electricity generating capacity.

The Nikkei business daily reported today that the government is considering loosening labour, competition and environmental regulations to promote energy saving this summer.

For example, the government may allow lowered air conditioning at offices, stores, and other public spaces, offering exemptions from a law requiring that room temperatures be kept below 28ºC.

The disaster could also require a more fundamental rethink of energy and climate policies in Japan, local media said.

The nuclear accident will likely force Japan to review its ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020 against the 1990 level, according to the reports.

The target is subject to a review, Hideki Minamikawa, vice minister at the Japanese Environment Ministry, told Japanese media in Bangkok on the sidelines of UN talks on climate change.

“It is true that the reduction target will be significantly affected” by the nuclear accident, he said, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Japan, which meets about one-third of its energy demand from nuclear power, has lost some generating capacity from the Fukushima and other accidents, which may in turn lessen public support on plans to build more reactors.

Minamikawa’s comment would contradict a remark by Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto that the government had no plan to change the emission goal.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.