TOKYO - Workers at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 240 km northeast of Tokyo resumed work on Thursday to bring the six reactor facility back online so that its own cooling systems can lower the temperature of the reactors' cores and stabilize its nuclear fuel.
Owner and operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), was forced on Wednesday to suspend its operations and evacuate its personnel following black smoke seen billowing out of the No 3 reactor building.
The utility noted that it was the second time in three days that a fire had broken out in the same No 3 reactor building, but Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency confirmed the smoke stopped as of 04:50 am local time on Thursday.
There was a hydrogen explosion at the No 3 reactor on March 14, following the crippling damage inflicted on the plant by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit three days earlier.
The explosion battered most of the exterior of the reactor building and smoke has been seen rising from the building intermittently ever since, causing immediate evacuations of workers and hampering the progress of restoring power and effectively cooling the reactors at the plant.
However, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said Wednesday that electrical equipment inside the reactor building "was found to be in a relatively good condition," suggesting power may well be supplied to the cooling systems on Thursday.
Government authorities will continue on Thursday with monitoring radiation levels in the vicinity of the troubled power plant and test soil samples to check levels of radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium.
The authorities will also be collecting samples for testing from the air around the plant and from a 30 km stretch of sea off the coast of the Fukushima plant.