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Safety upgrades ordered at Japan nuclear plants

By the CNN Wire Staff
Plants will be required to inspect their equipment in order to test their ability to withstand a tsunami.
Plants will be required to inspect their equipment in order to test their ability to withstand a tsunami.
  • The regulations are aimed at preventing nuclear crises in a disaster
  • Plants will be required to put emergency plans in place and run drills
  • Some requirements should be met by mid-April

(CNN) -- Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place at nuclear plants throughout Japan in the wake of a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant triggered by a tsunami that resulted from a massive earthquake earlier this month, the Japanese government said Wednesday.

The goal of the regulations is to make nuclear plant operators capable of preventing damage to reactor cores and spent fuel rods, prevent the emission of radioactivity and recover cooling mechanisms in a situation where a tsunami compromises a plant's cooling systems, Banri Kaieda, a Japanese Cabinet member, said Wednesday.

Plants will be required to inspect their devices and equipment in order to test their ability to withstand a tsunami, the government said. In addition, plants will be required to make emergency plans and run an emergency drill, acting as if cooling systems have been compromised, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in a statement. They will also have to ensure they have access to an alternative power source if emergency power fails and implement emergency cooling water solutions.

The tsunami that hit March 11 flooded the generators supplying backup power to the Daiichi plant, and backup battery power only lasted for a few hours. Workers were left scrambling to find a way to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools to avoid a meltdown. More recently, efforts at the plant have been focused on restoring power and deciding how to handle contaminated water discovered within the plant.

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By mid-April, the government said, plants should have power vehicles available to cool reactor cores and spent fuel pools; make fire trucks available which can supply cooling water; and make fire hoses available to enable a water supply from fresh or seawater sources.

They also must document emergency procedures including the vehicles and other items, and run a drill, the agency statement said.

Operators must begin implementing the requirements immediately and report their status including implementation plans to the agency. The agency will review the reports and validate the plans, along with confirming implementation, it said.

In the long term, plants will be required to revisit their prevention measures based on a new "predictable tsunami height" based on findings from the current crisis, the agency said. They also will be required to build coastal levees and install watertight doors at the plants, as well as requirements unique to each facility. They also will be expected to improve or acquire specialized equipment.

CNN's Ingrid Formanek and Tsukushi Ikeda contributed to this report.

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