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Western firms rush to assist in Fukushima recovery effort

As the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant continues, western vendors are offering their expertise and are assisting with efforts to replace some of the generating capacity lost as a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

GE and its nuclear business partner Hitachi Ltd have sent over 1000 workers to assist in getting the reactors at Fukushima back under control and have donated US$10m in humanitarian aid. According to GE’s chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, the company is also preparing to ship gas turbines to Japan.

GE and Hitachi will also be cooperating with Bechtel Corp, the major US engineering and construction company and the US power utility Exelon Corp in the post-crisis stage to remove radioactively contaminated rubble from the site and assist in the reactor decommissioning process. GE and Toshiba Corop manufactured reactors 1-3 at the Fukushima plant, while Hitachi supplied equipment to the No.4 reactor, which was undergoing regular inspection at the time of the earthquake and tsunami.

On March 18, France’s EDF said that it, together with Areva, the French nuclear vendor and the atomic agency commission would be sending Japan 130t of specialised equipment including robots capable of intervening in the case of a nuclear accident. Anne Lauvergeon, head of Areva has promised to send around 20 experts and has offered technical and material assistance to aid in resolving the current crisis.

The UK’s Aggreko has signed a deal to supply 200MW of both gas and diesel-fired power generation to TEPCO for a minimum one-year term starting in June.

The world’s largest concrete pump is being flown to Fukushima from the US at a cost of US$1.4m to the site, to help encase the damaged reactors to prevent further radiation leakage.  The Putzmeister pump is being flown from Atlanta via an Atonov 225 cargo plane and will not be returning to the US, as it is expected to become contaminated with radiation during its stay at Fukushima. 11 such pumps were used in 1986 to encase the Chernobyl reactor’s core in 1986 to prevent the release of further radiation.

Finally, QinetiQ North America has sent robots to TEPCO, to allow operations in areas too dangerous for people. The Robots sent are the TALON and Dragon Runner models and QinentiQ has also provided TEPCO with kits capable of turning Bobcat loaders into remote controlled vehicles for the clearance of rubble and debris.

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