NE Japan Earthquake Day 5: Workers Race in the Dark to Stabilize Nuclear Reactors Amidst Fears of Explosions and Aftershocks; Governor of Tokyo Apologizes for Calling Disaster “Divine Punishment”; Stock Market Plummets 10.55%

Emergency Teams Work Desperately in the Dark Reactors Amidst Fears of Explosions and Aftershocks
Yomiuri Shimbun: 被曝の恐怖、余震…真っ暗な建屋で決死の作業

The Fukushima I Nuclear Reactor Complex, where radioactive material continues to be released.

While contending with the fear of radiation poisoning, the power plant staff desperately continues its work. On the morning of the 15th, there was a large explosion at Reactor No. 2. Tokyo Power and the companies assisting it had 800 people there pumping water at the time, but after the explosion, only the “necessary minimum” of 50 people stayed, and the other 750 left the site. In order to evade further explosions, work must be interrupted when radiation gets too high. On the morning of the 15th, radiation in the vicinity of Reactor No. 3 was measured at 400 millimeters Sievert, and shift lengths were limited to 15 minutes. The power outage caused by the tsunami continues. Because light cannot be struck, staff are working inside the reactor in the dark, and efficiency levels are not high. Aftershocks continue, and tsunami warnings force the staff to cut off their work. The 400mSv reading came from a handheld radiation surveillance device a worker was carrying.

On the afternoon of the 12th, there was a verbal warning to release high pressure steam inside the storage container of No. 1. This averted a fissure, the worst possible result. The man who made the warning was bathed in 100mSv radiation, and after feeling nausea, he was taken to a hospital.

This work, by nature, carries the risk of exposure to radiation. For this reason, a veteran who was familiar with the plans for No. 1 was in charge of the operation. Though he was wearing a full body suit and mask made of special Tyvek material, and he made an early warning call, for just over ten minutes he was exposed to as much radiation as a normal person could comfortably handle in a year, about 100 times the rays that naturally occur in the environment.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says there are about 70 Tokyo Power employees at work pumping water into the reactor. They rotate between manning the emergency control room and working in the field.

The measuring instruments in the central control room were also taken out of commission by the original disaster. Because control cannot be assumed from a remote location, some of the cooling work must be done by hand and voice. Because Fukushima I is an old reactor which has operated 40 years, transportation lanes are narrow, which also trips up the work.

As water is pumped in, pressure inside the container also rises, increasing the danger of a collapse, so gas must sometimes be released from the inside. Since the gas includes radioactive material, releases must be as restrained as possible. Tokyo Power’s supervisor said “we’re doing our utmost to preserve a balance” and sighed.

Tokyo Governor Ishihara Apologizes for “Wounding the Families of Victims Deeply” by Calling Disaster “Divine Punishment
Yomiuri Shimbun: 石原知事、天罰発言撤回・謝罪「深く傷つけた」

Tokyo Governor Shintarō Ishihara apologized on the 15th to “victims of this disaster and citizens of this city and the entire country” for calling the Great Eastern Earthquake “divine punishment” and retracted his statements.

In his opening statement at a press conference about the earthquake response, he said, “I feel great remorse for my thoughtlessness toward the victims…I retract my statements and apologize profusely…I promise to renew my efforts as Governor to do everything possible for the victims of this disaster.”

On the 14th, when the press asked how Mr. Ishihara viewed Japanese citizens’ response to the earthquake, he said, “It is necessary for us to use this opportunity to cleanse ourselves of egoism…This is definitely divine punishment.”

According to the governor’s office, these words sparked a rush of messages and phone calls offering opinions and protests.

Nikkei Stocks Fall Across the Board, Scraping Below ¥8500 at One Point
Yomiuri Shimbun: 日経平均全面安、一時8500円割り込む

The Japanese stock market crumpled on the 15th under the crushing blows of the earthquake and Fukushima reactor accidents as anxiety about the future of the economy spiked drastically.

The Nikkei (which lists 225 stocks) closed at ¥8605.15, a whole ¥1015.34 lower than the day before. These depths are equal to those reached during the Lehman Shock in October 2008. The 10.55% fall was the third largest in history.

From the rush of sellers at the opening bell, the market ceaselessly declined, hitting ¥1392.86 below the previous day’s close at one point. The trading volume of 5.77 billion shares was the highest ever recorded in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The market also reflects worries about the effects of rolling blackouts on business operations. Many believe that, in the words of one major brokerage, “the downward correction will continue for the time being.”

Original/原稿:

被曝の恐怖、余震…真っ暗な建屋で決死の作業

 高濃度の放射性物質の放出が続く福島第一原発。

 放射能汚染の恐怖と闘いながら、決死の作業が続く。15日朝に大きな爆発が起きた2号機。東電や協力企業の作業員ら800人が水の注入作業を行っていたが、爆発に伴い、「必要最小限」という50人を残し、750人が一時、現場から離れた。被曝(ひばく)を避けるため、放射線量が高くなると作業を中断しなければならない。15日午前、隣接する3号機付近で観測された400ミリ・シーベルトの環境下で作業できる時間は15分が限度。津波による被害で、停電も続く。照明がつかないため真っ暗な建屋内で、作業効率はあがらない。余震が続く中、津波警報で作業の中断を余儀なくされることもある。400ミリ・シーベルトを記録したのは、作業員が携帯する放射線監視装置だった。

 12日午後、高圧になった1号機の格納容器内の蒸気を逃すための弁が開放された。格納容器に亀裂が入る最悪の事態はまぬがれた。その弁を開ける作業にあたった男性は、100ミリ・シーベルト以上の放射線を浴び、吐き気やだるさを訴えて病院へ搬送された。

 もともと、この作業では、大量の放射線を浴びる危険があった。このため、1号機の構造に詳しいベテラン社員である当直長が作業を担当。「タイベック」と呼ばれる特殊な全身つなぎ服とマスクを身につけ、手早く弁を開けたが、10分超で一般人が1年に浴びてもいい放射線量の100倍にあたる放射線を浴びた。

 経済産業省原子力安全・保安院によると、同原発で注水作業に当たる東電職員らは約70人。緊急時対策室でポンプなどを制御しつつ交代しながら格納容器付近の現場で活動している。

 中央制御室で監視できる計器も、被災後、故障し計測不能なものがある。遠隔制御も不能で、原子炉冷却のために弁を開く作業も手作業するしかない。福島第一原発は1971年に1号機が稼働した古い原発で、通路などが狭く作業しにくいことも足を引っ張る。

 注水が進めば原子炉内の圧力が上昇し、炉の崩壊の危険性が高まるため、弁を開いてガスを外部に放出しながら進めなければならない。ガスは放射性物質を含むため、放出自体は最小限に抑えなければならない。東電の担当者は「バランスをみながらぎりぎりの選択の連続だ」とため息をつく。
(2011年3月15日20時01分 読売新聞)

石原知事、天罰発言撤回・謝罪「深く傷つけた」

 東京都の石原慎太郎知事が、東日本巨大地震に関連し、「天罰」などと述べたことについて、石原知事は15日、「被災者、都民、国民の皆様を深く傷つけた」と謝罪し、発言を撤回した。

 石原知事は同日、地震対応に関する記者会見の冒頭で、「被災者の失意、無念は拝察するに余りある」「発言を撤回し、深くおわびします」とし、「首都の知事として、被災地のために全力を尽くすことを改めて約束したい」と述べた。

 石原知事は14日、震災に対する日本国民の対応をどう見るかと報道陣に問われた際、「津波をうまく利用して『我欲』を洗い落とす必要がある」「これはやっぱり天罰」などと発言していた。

 都によると、この発言に対してメールや電話による意見や抗議が殺到していたという。
(2011年3月15日17時41分 読売新聞)

日経平均全面安、一時8500円割り込む

 東日本大地震の打撃や福島第一原子力発電所の重大事故を受けて、日本経済の先行き懸念が急速に強まり、15日の東京株式市場では株価が暴落した。

 日経平均株価(225種)の終値は、前日終値比1015円34銭安の8605円15銭と大幅続落した。2008年10月のリーマン・ショック時の下げに匹敵する水準で、下落率は10・55%と歴代3位となった。

 取引開始から売りが殺到してほぼ全面安の展開となり、下落幅は一時、前日比1392円86銭まで拡大する場面も見られ、東証1部の出来高は約57億7700万株と過去最高となった。

 計画停電が企業活動に与える影響も懸念されており、市場では「当面は下落基調が進む」(大手証券)との見方が強い。
(2011年3月15日15時12分 読売新聞)

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