Osaka (AFP) March 30, 2011
Workers at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant plan to spray its grounds with a special resin to prevent further radioactivity being released, a nuclear safety agency official said Wednesday.
Faced with an unprecedented crisis, authorities are grappling to control four crippled reactors that have been leaking dangerous radiation after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out their cooling systems.
Officials are considering a variety of tactics after efforts to cool the reactors with massive amounts of water led to dangerous side-effects, as the run-off has flooded areas outside and may seep into the ocean and soil.
In the latest attempt to bring the disaster under control, workers will on Thursday begin to carpet two-thirds of the plant's 1.2 hectares (three acres) of grounds with resin, the official said.
"The aim is to block radioactive materials from spreading into the air and running off into the ocean," he said. "It will be experimental so we're unsure of how much effect it will have."
He declined to provide details about the resin, but according to local media it is a watery solution normally used to spray roads to allow dust to settle.
Officials are also mulling covering three badly damaged outer reactor buildings with special-fabric caps and fitting air filters to limit radiation, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier Wednesday.
Another plan was to anchor an empty tanker off reactor two, so that workers can pump several Olympic swimming pools' worth of highly-radioactive water into its hull, the daily said, citing unnamed government officials.
"We are in an unprecedented situation, so we need to think about different strategies, beyond what we normally think about," another nuclear safety official told AFP separately, without detailing specific plans.
The United States has lent Japan robots of a model battle-tested in Iraq and Afghanistan that can navigate, film and clear rubble in the blast-hit reactor buildings, which humans cannot enter because of very high radiation levels.
France, which relies on nuclear power for three-quarters of its energy needs, was sending an expert team from Areva, its state-run reactor maker, to assist embattled operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).
earlier related report
Buyers, especially from Pacific rim countries, are snapping up geiger counters amid worries that radiation from the hobbled Fukushima nuclear power plant is spreading around the world.
"Sales are through the roof. We had to suspend orders on our site more than a week ago," said Tim Flanagan, owner of GeigerCounter.com -- which sports a banner, "We are SOLD OUT."
"With this crisis, it's just gone through the roof. We're getting calls from all over the world about these meters," said Mike McBride of Industrial Test Systems, which makes two models of radiation testers.
It's the same story elsewhere. GS Geiger, which sells a $450 German-made hand-held detector, puts the wait time at four months after a gush of orders.
And at Tennessee-based manufacturer SE International, an official said they were too busy working overtime to meet the backlog to talk about it. "We aren't taking any new orders right now," he said.
Most of the geiger counters ITS and GeigerCounter.com sold in the past three weeks have gone to Japan and the US West Coast, with the biggest demand from people worried about irradiated food.
"Japan exports food to the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia, and they are concerned about contamination," said Flanagan.
Heavy sales on the US and Canadian Pacific coast are also driven by worries of clouds of radiation descending from Japan.
They come from hobbyists, manufacturers who import parts from Japan and some people who just distrust the government to tell them the truth, according to McBride.
Last week one woman walked into his company's Rock Hill, South Carolina office to buy one to check food she buys in the markets that comes from Asia.
"I would consider them scared, or they don't trust the government," he said.
Flanagan said that in a normal year he sells about 1,000 detectors, mostly to rockhounds, gemologists, and scientists.
In the first five days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hobbled the Fukushima plant -- prompting fears of a meltdown in one or more of its reactors -- Flanagan emptied his shelves of 500.
Smartphone-sized hand-held models run between $250 and $800, and are easy to use and reliable, dealers say.
"They answer the basic question that most people want to know: is this thing radioactive?" said Flanagan.
"As soon as you turn them on, they'll actually start clicking or beeping, and that will show background radiation."
But a user needs to know that there is always some harmless background radiation, he stressed. He gets a lot of questions about just what level of radiation is dangerous.
"A lot of people don't understand is that ... we humans are being bombarded by radiation constantly, mainly of cosmic origin."
International Mecom, another manufacturer with an inventory depleted by heavy buying, meanwhile called on customers to help monitor radiation levels around the country.
"We encourage all customers to participate in citizen's radiation monitoring networks to make the data they collect available to as many members of our global community as possible," it said in a statement.
"We have monitoring stations set up in Sebastopol California, Ashland Oregon, and Maui Hawaii. All three stations are reporting normal radiation levels at this time."
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Nuclear fears spark rush for radiation detectors
Washington (AFP) March 29, 2011
A scare over irradiated food from Japan has sparked a global rush to buy radiation detectors, US dealers said Tuesday, with most reporting they have no more stock to sell. Buyers, especially from Pacific rim countries, are snapping up geiger counters amid worries that radiation from the hobbled Fukushima nuclear power plant is spreading around the world. "Sales are through the roof. We h ... read more
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