Japan Declares Stricken Nuclear Plant Stable

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 7:25 am (UTC-5)
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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says the nuclear plant crippled by the March 11 tsunami has reached a state of “cold shutdown”, in a major step in efforts to bring Japan's worst nuclear disaster under control.

Mr. Noda made the announcement about the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant on Friday.

A cold shutdown means the three damaged reactors have been stabilized and are no longer leaking substantial amounts of radiation nor are in danger of going critical.

But some experts fear that the facility is still contaminated with high levels of radiation.

Stabilization of the reactors, whose molten cores spewed radioactive particles into the air and sea, marks the end of the second step of the clean-up. Step three involves the decommissioning of the damaged units, a process experts expect to last up to 40 years.

Mr. Noda acknowledged to reporters that billions of dollars will be needed to compensate the tens of thousands of people forced to evacuate their communities and the numerous ruined businesses, including farms and fishing fleets.

There is also concern about the possibility of another huge quake or tsunami causing further serious damage and radiation releases. Authorities in Japan say that is extremely unlikely. But critics point out that the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the government had brushed off warnings that a natural disaster could trigger multiple reactor meltdowns at Fukushima prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.