Japanese gov't declares cold shutdown at Fukushima nuke plant   2011-12-16 22:58:34            

TOKYO, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government announced Friday that the damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have reached a state known as "cold shutdown," about nine months after a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused its reactors to meltdown and sparked a nuclear crisis unseen for 25-years globally.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda confirmed the declaration at a press conference later on Friday. Noda vowed to maintain the safety at the plant and speed up the decontamination work near the plant.

Noda said the government will spend more than 1 trillion yen to fund the move for the time being and 30,000 people will be mobilized next year to conduct decontamination work near the facility.

The condition is the target set for the second stage of a timetable by the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government to bring the crippled plant under control, as part of a broader roadmap to fully decommission the plant and dispose of the nuclear waste.

The next phase of the government's lengthy, 30-year decommissioning roadmap will see some of the 100,000 residents previously evacuated from the vicinity of the radiation-leaking plant allowed to return home, officials have said.

Initially only residents from locations that were exposed to low-level doses of radiation will be allowed to return home and a 20-km evacuation zone will be maintained around the majority of the plant and its facilities, pending ongoing studies, the plant's operator said.

Noda pledged on Friday that the government will do its best to enable the evacuees to return to their homes. He said the government will also conduct thorough health management in the future, which includes body check-ups.

Despite the announced completion of a second stage, Noda's speech met with skepticism on the Internet. According to an online poll conducted by Yahoo Japan News, about 94 percent of those surveyed voted the opinion of "not appropriate" for Noda's speech.

Evacuees told local TV programs that the nuclear accident won't be over unless they are able to return to their homes.

While the government pushes forward with plans to notify the public of the plant's stability, the TEPCO has been battling to store ever-increasing amounts of radioactive water and is considering dumping it into the Pacific Ocean to free up much- needed storage space.

The Asia's largest utility firm said that the plant was likely to reach its maximum storage capacity of 155,000 tons by around March next year due to massive inflows of groundwater and as such was mulling the idea of once again releasing radioactive water into the sea.

The TEPCO said it would conduct a detailed environmental assessment and submit it to the government with the aim of discharging only contaminants that would have the least effect on the environment.

With the troubled plant still leaking radiation into the environment, nuclear analysts said the wording a "cold shutdown" could be misleading.

Editor: yan
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