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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More