Further speculation on the timeline for nuclear plant restarts and more water woes at Fukushima Daiichi highlighted the last week's news from Japan.Developments related to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant blacked out following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami include:New Regulations in Place, Nuclear Plants Line Up for Restart ApprovalOn Wednesday, Japan's new Nuclear Regulation Authority finalized its post-Fukushima safety regulations for nuclear plants. As they take effect July 8, five utilities are expected to seek permission to operate 14 pressurized water reactors. Citing an unnamed source, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the NRA will give priority to unit 3 of Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant and units 1 and 2 of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant because of their favorable seismic characteristics. The NRA's safety checks are expected to take months, with the first plants likely to return to service next winter. The agency's limited personnel and mandatory local government approvals are expected to make widespread restarts a lengthy process.Leaks Reported in Water Treatment SystemsOn Friday morning, TEPCO said about 360 liters of contaminated water had leaked from a desalination system – part of an array of equipment used to treat water pumped from plant basements that is reused as coolant for damaged reactors. The equipment in question was shut down, according to the Kyodo news service. On Sunday, TEPCO also suspended a test run of the ALPS decontamination system to investigate traces of radioactive water on the surface of a tank. High-Dose Water Found in Test WellOn Wednesday, TEPCO reported it detected significant volumes of strontium and tritium in a well near the turbine buildings of units 1 and 2. The Asahi Shimbun reported that samples taken in recent weeks revealed strontium at 1,000 becquerels per liter and tritium at 500,000 becquerels per liter. TEPCO officials said they suspect contaminated water entered the ground shortly after the accidents and seeped into ground water that flowed into the well. The company plans to inject material into the soil near the well to keep the water from reaching the ocean.
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