ATLANTA — A massive Russian cargo plane roared into Atlanta on Friday to pick up one of the world's largest concrete pumps, which has been retrofitted to pour water on a Japanese nuclear power plant stricken by an earthquake and tsunami.
The 190,000-pound pump designed by Wisconsin-based Putzmeister America Inc. comes mounted on a 26-wheel truck. Its extendable boom can reach more than 200 feet. It can be operated two miles away by remote control, making it possible to shoot water into hard-to-reach places at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan.
The pump could also entomb a damaged nuclear reactor in concrete. After a 1986 disaster, Putzmeister sent 11 pumps to pour concrete over parts of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.
"Our whole company feels hopeful that our equipment can be used to make a difference in helping solve the problem," Putzmeister America CEO Dave Adams said while watching the plane arrive.
Japanese authorities have struggled to cool the plant's reactors after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out its backup cooling systems. The facility has been rocked by explosions, spewed radiation and may have suffered a partial meltdown of its nuclear fuel.
A Putzmeister official in Japan contacted the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the crippled reactors, after watching helicopters and fire trucks struggle to spray water onto the plant.
Moving such a large pump required hiring one of the world's largest cargo jets. After picking up the pump in Atlanta, the towering Russian plane picked up another one at Los Angeles International Airport. The plane is scheduled to depart today.
The pumps were bought by the Japanese utility for about $2 million each, and the utility is paying for transportation costs.