July 11 (Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. crews prepared for strong winds and heavy rains at its wrecked Fukushima atomic plant, as the storm known as Neoguri drifted north after grazing Tokyo overnight.
The storm was skirting Japan’s eastern coast at about 45 kilometers (28 miles) an hour and could bring up to 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) of rain per hour to parts of Fukushima prefecture by early this afternoon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said on its website. The agency downgraded Neoguri from tropical storm to extratropical cyclone today.
Although the storm continued to weaken along its northeastward path, offshore wind speeds in Fukushima could reach 61 kilometers an hour, the JMA said. Neoguri, which has been blamed for at least three deaths, entered Japanese waters earlier this week as a typhoon.
The Fukushima Dai-Ichi station’s reactor buildings are strong enough to withstand storm winds and rains, Tepco, as the plant’s operator is known, said in an e-mailed statement. Equipment being used for the plant’s decommissioning was being secured ahead of the storm, the company said.
Crews have also built high dams around storage tanks holding contaminated water as an extra precaution against leaks, site superintendent Akira Ono said in the statement.
“The Fukushima Dai-Ichi site is now prepared for the typhoon,” Ono said.
While the downpour may increase the amount of radioactive runoff from the plant into the ocean, it will be offset by dilution from off-shore rains, according to Kathryn Higley, who heads the nuclear engineering and radiation health physics department at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
“There may be a flushing of contaminated soils and sediments from rivers and streams out into the ocean, but I wouldn’t anticipate any increased dose effects,” Higley said in an e-mail.
Neoguri, which means “raccoon” in Korean, was east of the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, as of 9:40 a.m., according to the JMA. Wind shear and cool waters continued to weaken the storm, said Jim Andrews, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
“It’s almost down to what I would call a non-storm,” Andrews said. “It’s pretty disjointed-looking on the satellite. By tomorrow it will be gone, just plain gone.”
Three deaths since July 6 have been attributed to Neoguri, including that of a 12-year-old boy who was killed in a landslide in Nagiso, in the central prefecture of Nagano, according to a statement from Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
The disaster agency also said the storm was responsible for the deaths of an 83-year-old man whose body was found in an irrigation canal in the Fukushima prefecture city of Koriyama in northeastern Japan and of a 77-year-old man who fell into a waterway in Seiyo, Ehime prefecture, in Shikoku.
The storm was blamed for 62 injuries across the country, five of them serious, according to the disaster agency.
In addition to shear and colder water, a low pressure system over the China-Russia border is disrupting Neoguri as it moves north.
“It’s going to be losing out and the other storm is going to be gaining,” Andrews said. That storm is dumping heavy rains across other parts of Japan as it feeds on the warm moist air Neoguri brought north.
Neoguri may linger as a remnant in coming days, he said.
To the south, the U.S. Navy is tracking a tropical depression about 689 kilometers east-southeast of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
Andrews said the depression may grow into a typhoon and move northward next week. He said Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea should monitor its progress.
--With assistance from Kiyotaka Matsuda, Emi Urabe and Taku Kato in Tokyo and Brian K. Sullivan in Boston.