Giant pumps rushed from US to Japan

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Two of the world's largest cement boom pumps are being rushed to Japan to help cool reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the company that makes the equipment said Friday.

Two giant trucks equipped with powerful pumps and flexible arms with a 70 meter reach will be used to shoot water from giant hoses to cool the nuclear reactors, or cement to seal off the site, said Kelly Blickle, a spokeswoman with the US subsidiary of the German company Putzmeister.

Similar pumps were used in Chernobyl following the April 1986 meltdown, Blickle told AFP.

The boom pumps, normally used to pour concrete for bridges and skyscrapers under construction, can feed water over the destroyed buildings and target the reactor hotspots.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the Fukushima plant operator, "didn't specifically say that they wanted to pump concrete, but it is the option, they don't have to bring in more equipment should that need occur," Blickle said.

The equipment can also be operated via radio remote control -- an operator can be some two kilometers (1.2 miles) away while maneuvering the boom pump. The company is working on extending that distance to four kilometers, Blickle said.

Eleven Putzmeister truck-mounted concrete pumps and stationary pumps were used during the Chernobyl accident, the company said.

Two US companies had bought the boom pumps, but agreed instead to let Putzmeister re-direct the machines to Japan and delay their orders, Blickle said.

The two pumps are scheduled to fly out to Japan on April 9 aboard giant Russian Antonov AN-225 transport planes, the world's largest aircraft.

At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a Putzmeister pump with a 58 meter reach is already in use. That pump was originally intended for a customer in South-East Asia but was instead redirected to Japan. Two other pumps with a 62 meter reach were sent directly from Germany, the company said.

Japanese firefighters have been dousing the stricken reactors with seawater in an effort to cool damaged reactors and fuel rods, with radioactive particles emitted into the air, contaminating tap water, the sea and food products.

© 2011 AFP

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