TOKYO – A powerful typhoon was closing in on Japan on Tuesday, on a path that will take it towards the precarious Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Typhoon Wipha, packing winds of up to 144 kilometres per hour near its centre, was in the Pacific south of Japan early on Tuesday and moving north at 20 kilometres per hour.
It was forecast to reach an area off the Tokyo metropolitan area by early Wednesday and later in the day would be off the coast of Fukushima where the crippled nuclear power plant sits.
As the weather agency issued warnings of torrential rain and strong winds, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), said it was bracing for the winds after a series of leaks of radiation-polluted water.
"We are making preparations for proper management of contaminated water... We will patrol places that could have inflows of water (from the storm)," a company spokesman said.
Cables and hoses are bundled together, while ground and off-shore works have been halted, he said.
Earlier this month the company announced 430 litres (114 US gallons) of polluted water had spilt from a tank as workers tried to remove rainwater dumped at the plant by recent typhoons.
It has admitted contaminated water may well have flowed into the sea. Japan's atomic watchdog summoned the president of TEPCO for a public dressing-down for sloppy standards at the plant after the incident.
The nuclear plant was badly damaged by the tsunami that hit in March 2011. Critics say it remains in a fragile state and at the mercy of extreme weather or other natural hazards. AFP