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Typhoon to hit Japanese coast near damaged nu -

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TONY EASTLEY: An approaching typhoon is once again highlighting the precarious nature of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

Typhoon Man-yi is making landfall on the main island of Honshu and is heading towards Tokyo and later today will pass over or near the nuclear plant.

The operator says it's on high alert for damaging winds and heavy rain.

Mark Willacy is our North Asia correspondent.

Mark Willacy, what precautions is Tepco, the operator of the plant, taking for this typhoon?

MARK WILLACY: Well, Tony, workers are basically strapping down anything that could topple over or fly away. Tepco's put large weights on the big cranes that they use at the site to move about debris. Of course that's to stop the cranes from toppling over.

They've lashed ropes to outdoor pumps and outdoor piping. This is all equipment that's used to inject cooling water into the reactors. So it's very important equipment indeed, and Tepco is bolstering patrols apparently to check if this heavy rain will enter or even overflow inside the turbine buildings.

And that's where highly radioactive water has already accumulated. So these patrols will go on, although it's probably going to be suspended when the winds get too strong and the situation becomes more dangerous.

TONY EASTLEY: What's the major fear about what the typhoon could actually do the plant, Mark?

MARK WILLACY: Well the main fear is that huge amounts of rain from the typhoon will be dumped on the Fukushima plant, and then that will mean an overflow of contaminated water. Water that's already pooled at the site.

And by late yesterday, you know, that's before the typhoon had even made landfall. We'd seen some heavy rain up there. I think about 40, 42 millimetres of heavy rain, and they did find water already overflowing near storage tanks next to the number four reactor.

Now, Tepco was inspecting that to see if it was contaminated. The other fear is that heavy equipment, as we mentioned, could topple over and get damaged. Most of all, vital pumping equipment, the fear is that it could fail.

TONY EASTLEY: How long before the danger passes?

MARK WILLACY: Well, Typhoon Man-yi, as it's being named, is approaching Tokyo now. The wind is starting to pick up. If I look outside the window, the trees are bending over quite well. We're hearing of gusts of up to 144 kilometres an hour.

So the typhoon is expected to pass Tokyo this morning or around midday. Then it will track in a north-easterly direction - the very direction of the Fukushima plants. So it should pass over the plant in the afternoon sometime.

TONY EASTLEY: North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy.