FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Officials are racing to restore electricity to Japan's leaking nuclear plant, but getting the power flowing will hardly be the end of their battle: With its mangled machinery and partly melted reactor cores, bringing the complex under control is a monstrous job.
Restoring the power to all six units at the tsunami-damaged complex is key, because it will, in theory, allow the return of cooling water to the overheated reactor cores and spent fuel pools that are leaking radiation.
Ideally, officials believe it should only take a day to get the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant under control once the cooling systems are running. But it could take days or weeks to get those systems working.
The nuclear plant's cooling systems were wrecked by the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11. Since then, conditions at the plant have been volatile; plumes of smoke rose from two reactor units Monday, prompting workers to evacuate units 1-4.
The crews resumed the work early today, plant spokesman Motoyasu Tamaki said.
In another setback, the plant's operator said Monday that it had discovered that some of the cooling system's pumps at the complex's Unit 2 don't work — meaning replacements have to be brought in.
If officials can get the power turned on, get the replacement pumps working and get enough seawater into the reactors and spent fuel pools, it would only take a day to bring the temperatures back to a safe, cooling stage, said Ryohei Shiomi, an official with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
And if not?
"There is nothing else we can do but keep doing what we've been doing," Shiomi said.