After a day of pumping, the level of radioactive water flooding unit 2 of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant dropped 2.3 centimeters – a modest start to pumping efforts expected to take at least five weeks.Crews had run hoses from the basement of unit 2 to a nearby waste treatment building specially prepped for water storage and eventual treatment using equipment provided by Areva and Veolia Water. While unit 2 has taken priority because of high radiation readings in tunnels beside it, sublevels of at least three units will need to be pumped out before repair work can resume on their reactors. Japanese regulators quoted by Kyodo news also said Wednesday that water levels in unit 3 had increased slightly.Excess water evaporating from spent fuel tanks doused continuously to keep them cool, as well as from a potential breach in unit 2’s containment, has likely contributed to radioactive contamination detected in the countryside near the plant, where Japanese politicians said they will begin tougher enforcement of an evacuation order.At the same time as it prepares to let some evacuees return briefly to retrieve personal items, Kyodo’s sources indicated Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will soon prohibit unauthorized people from coming within 20 kilometers of the plant.The New York Times estimates 77,000 people lived within the circumference of the evacuation zone, which has been in place since the early days of the crisis. Japanese media reported that of 3,378 households police have visited so far, people still reside in 63 of them. Residents living between 20 and 30 kilometers of the plant have been told to stay indoors. The U.S. Embassy in Japan has recommended Americans stay 50 miles from the plant.
(Photo: Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi headquarters, pictured last week. Source: TEPCO)
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