Japan says nuclear crisis won't end until next year
THE Japanese nuclear crisis will not be resolved for another nine months, officials admitted yesterday, as they laid out the first comprehensive plan for tackling the problem.
The first step will involve a "cold shutdown" of the plant's reactor cores, when temperatures will be brought down to below 212F (100C).
In the second step, 60,000 tons of radioactive water flooding the plant will be "decreased" and decontaminated. Meanwhile, the reactors will be covered with a structure to stop radioactive material escaping.
Finally, the radiation that has spread across the 12-mile evacuation zone and beyond will be reduced and tens of thousands of residents allowed to return.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of the plant's operator Tepco, admitted he did not know when that might happen, but Banri Kaieda, Japan's trade minister, said some could return home within six to nine months.
Mr Katsumata said: "We are doing our utmost to prevent the crisis from further worsening."
There has been mounting criticism of Tepco and the Japanese government over the lack of transparency at the plant.
Tepco had been accused of falsifying safety data even before last month's earthquake. The government was reported to have withheld data showing that radiation exceeded safe levels more than 18 miles from the plant.
In Fukushima, residents complained that the government's decision to raise the alert level to the same status as Chernobyl created a maelstrom of rumours.
There have been reports of people from Fukushima being turned away from hotels in other parts of Japan, and of the collapse of the region's farming industry.
About 630,000 terabecquerels of radiation are estimated to have been leaked at the plant. More than five million terabecquerels were released by Chernobyl.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of State, arrived in Tokyo yesterday to show solidarity with America's most important ally in Asia.
She said: "We pledge our steadfast support for you." (© Daily Telegraph, London)