News / Asia

Japan Declares Stricken Nuclear Plant Stable

A Greenpeace activist holds a placard during a demonstration outside Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, criticizing the government's declaration of cold shutdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant December 16, 2011.
A Greenpeace activist holds a placard during a demonstration outside Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, criticizing the government's declaration of cold shutdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant December 16, 2011.

Japan's government has announced that the reactors at the nuclear power plant crippled by the March 11th tsunami have achieved conditions of "cold shutdown." But there is a lack of consensus about what that precisely means.

Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda Friday declared a landmark accomplishment in bringing under control the severely damaged Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

The prime minister, at a news conference in Tokyo, says the government can announce that a cold shutdown condition has been reached.

That is supposed to mean the three damaged reactors have been stabilized and are no longer leaking substantial amounts of radiation.

Some are viewing the pronouncement as more political, than scientific, even though Mr. Noda is stressing the nuclear crisis is far from over.

An American engineer who is a specialist in nuclear containment testing, San Diego State University associate professor Murray Jennex, calls Japan's announcement premature.

"If I was in charge I wouldn't be making that statement that they're in cold shutdown. I would say that they're confident that there's no chance of re-criticality and they're going to commence doing clean-up activities," he said. "Here in the [United] States when our nuclear plants are in cold shutdown we actually open up the reactor buildings with free flow of the atmosphere and such."

And that is far from the situation at Fukushima-1, contaminated by high levels of radiation.

That will continue to hamper the clean-up at the facility, which officials and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant's owner, acknowledge could take up to 40 years to complete.

Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner Jan van de Putte, speaking from Brussels, says the Fukushima workers, during the past nine months, have made significant accomplishments but still face an immense and very dangerous job.

"The plant is still leaking. There's still thousands of liters of seriously contaminated water that needs to be treated. Recently there was another crack in that storage of water, leaking into the ocean, with strontium, a very dangerous radioactive substance," he said. "So the plant is far from under control."

Prime Minister Noda, at his news conference, acknowledged the immense challenge of the radiation clean-up and ensuring the public's health. He also alluded to the billions of dollars that will be needed to compensate the tens of thousands of people forced to flee their communities and the numerous ruined businesses, including farms and fishing fleets.

The scientific community has no consensus on just how precarious the situation remains at the Japanese nuclear power facility. That is in part because there is no way to determine whether highly radioactive fuel in the three damaged reactors melted through inner containment vessels and the concrete floor.

Because of that uncertainty, there is also skepticism over whether the government should be attempting to assure the public that the melted cores really pose no risk of a future atomic chain reaction that would again cause them to heat up uncontrollably.

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

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs