Japan Says Stricken Nuclear
Power Plant In Cold Shutdown
Fukushima Power Plant
EMF Protection Devices
Magnetic Field Detector
By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO | Fri Dec 16, 2011
(Reuters) - Japan declared
its tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant to be in
cold shutdown on Friday, taking a major step to resolving
the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years but some
critics questioned whether the plant was really under
Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was
wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a towering
tsunami which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering
meltdowns, radiation leaks and mass evacuations.
In making the
much-anticipated announcement, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
tried to draw a line under the most acute phase of the
crisis and highlighted the next challenges: the clean-up and
the safe dismantling of the plant, something the government
says may take more than 30 years.
have reached a state of cold shutdown," Noda told a
government nuclear emergency response meeting.
condition has been achieved," he added, noting radiation
levels at the boundary of the plant could now be kept at low
levels, even in the event of "unforeseeable incidents."
A cold shutdown
is when water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below
boiling point, preventing the fuel from reheating. One of
the chief aims of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power
(Tepco), had been to bring the reactors to that state by the
of a cold shutdown could have repercussions well beyond the
plant. It is a government pre-condition for allowing about
80,000 residents evacuated from within a 20 km (12 mile)
radius of the plant to go home.
Both Noda and his
environment and nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono said
that while the government still faced huge challenges, the
situation at the plant was under control.
That provoked an
angry response from senior local officials, Greenpeace and
some reporters even as the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear agency
welcomed "significant progress" at the plant.
We hope that this
will be a fresh step towards going back home but it does not
change the fact that the path to bringing the crisis under
control is long and tough," Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato
said, according to the Asahi newspaper website.
dismissed the announcement as a publicity stunt.
declaring a cold shutdown, the Japanese authorities are
clearly anxious to give the impression that the crisis has
come to an end, which is clearly not the case," Greenpeace
Japan said in a statement.
acknowledged that there were some areas where it would be
difficult to bring people back and said there could be small
difficulties here and there, but he told a briefing: "I
believe there will be absolutely no situation in which
problems escalate and nearby residents are forced to
temperature in all three of the affected reactors fell below
boiling point by September, but Tepco had said it would
declare a state of cold shutdown only once it was satisfied
that the temperatures and the amount of radiation emitted
from the plant remained stable.
Jonathan Cobb, an
expert at the British-based World Nuclear Association, said
the authorities had been conservative in choosing the timing
of the announcement.
has delayed declaration of cold shutdown conditions, one
reason being to ensure that the situation at the plant was
stable," Cobb said, adding that the evacuation zone should
get progressively smaller as more of it was decontaminated.
professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University, said
authorities needed to determine exactly the status of melted
fuel inside the reactors and stabilize a makeshift cooling
system, which handles the tens of thousands of tons of
contaminated water accumulated on-site.
and Tepco will aim to begin removing the undamaged nuclear
rods from the plant's spent fuel pools next year. However,
retrieval of fuel that melted down in their reactors may not
begin for another decade.
The enormous cost
of the cleanup and compensating the victims has drained
Tepco financially. The government may inject about $13
billion into the company as early as next summer in a de
facto nationalization, sources told Reuters last week.
advisory panel estimates Tepco may have to pay about 4.5
trillion yen ($57 billion) in compensation in the first two
years after the nuclear crisis, and that it will cost 1.15
trillion yen to decommission the plant, though some experts
put it at 4 trillion yen ($51 billion) or even more.
Japan also faces
a massive cleanup task outside the east coast plant if
residents are to be allowed to go home. The Environment
Ministry says about 2,400 square km (930 square miles) of
land around the plant may need to be decontaminated, an area
roughly the size of Luxembourg.
The crisis shook
the public's faith in nuclear energy and Japan is now
reviewing an earlier plan to raise the proportion of
electricity generated from nuclear power to 50 percent by
2030 from 30 percent in 2010.
Japan may not
immediately walk away from nuclear power, but few doubt that
nuclear power will play a lesser role in future.
Living in fear of
radiation is part of life for residents both near and far
from the plant. Cases of excessive radiation in vegetables,
tea, milk, seafood and water have stoked anxiety despite
assurances from public officials that the levels detected
are not dangerous.
Chernobyl's experience shows that anxiety is likely to
persist for years, with residents living near the former
Soviet plant still regularly checking produce for radiation
before consuming it 25 years after the disaster.