Powerful Typhoon Roke is bearing down on Japan and is on course to strike the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.
The typhoon is expected to hit the Fukushima area within 48 hours, and may hinder work to control leakage of water into the basements of the reactor buildings. A March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant, causing the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
More than 1 million people in Nagoya have been advised to evacuate because of Roke and almost 80,000 have been ordered to leave because of flood risk, said Katsuya Kobayashi in the city’s disaster prevention center.
That’s more than double the numbers for typhoon Talas earlier this month, which dumped record rainfall on southern Japan, causing mudslides and floods that killed 67 people and left 26 missing. Talas was the deadliest storm to hit Japan in seven years.
“The major difference between the two typhoons was Talas was slow-moving over the Kii peninsula, dumping rain in the same area, while Roke is fast moving,” Kenji Okada, a forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency, said. “Roke is bringing strong gusts and dumping rain in a wide region.”
The eye of Roke, categorized as “strong” by the agency, was about 575 miles southwest of Tokyo at 3 p.m. local time today. It was packing wind speeds of 89 mph.
The typhoon is forecast to take three days to pass over Japan and its storm warning area is due to cover most of the country in that time, according to the meteorological agency’s website.
Japan Airlines Co. canceled 47 domestic flights today because of the typhoon, spokesman Seiji Takaramoto said by telephone.
Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s largest automaker, has yet to decide on whether to operate its plants in Aichi prefecture tomorrow afternoon, spokesman Dion Corbett said today by telephone. Tomorrow’s morning shift will go ahead as normal, he said. Nagoya city is in Aichi prefecture.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. will keep plants in the region operating as normal, Mitsubishi spokesman Yuki Murata and Suzuki spokesman Shigeyuki Yamamura said today.
Roke, due in Fukushima prefecture in 48 hours, may hinder work to control leakage of water into the basements of the Dai- Ichi reactor buildings, which contained 102 million liters of radioactive water as of Sept. 13, according to Tokyo Electric estimates.
The storm may drop 150 millimeters of rain on Fukushima within 24 hours, likely in short, heavy downpours, Okada of the Japan Meteorological Agency said by phone today.
Since July, much of Tokyo Electric’s work in Fukushima has focused on decontaminating highly radiated cooling water that ran off into basements and trenches at the damaged reactors.
In addition, as much as 500 tons, or 500,000 liters, of underground water is leaking into Dai-Ichi buildings every day through cracks in walls and trenches, Tokyo Electric spokesman Hajime Motojuku said today.
The utility has been injecting water into Dai-Ichi’s reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems, causing the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Reactors need to be cooled below 100 degrees Celsius to shut down the plant.
Levels of contaminated water in Dai-Ichi basements have fallen more than 14 percent in the last month as Tepco speeded up water decontamination by adding a system supplied by Toshiba Corp. and Shaw Group Inc.
The company is in the process of installing a cover for the No. 1 reactor building and aims to put similar covers over units 3 and 4 next year after debris is cleared, Tokyo Electric spokesman Takeo Iwamoto said today. The tops of those three units were blown off by hydrogen explosions in March.
Still, the covers are unlikely to prevent rainwater from flowing into the basements, Iwamoto said.