News / Asia

Japan Promises to Shut Down Fukushima Reactors By Year's End

Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (file photo).
Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (file photo).

Japan says it will shut down reactors at the Fukushima-1 power plant by the end of the year. The announcement comes despite revelations that a natural disaster in March damaged the nuclear facility worse than earlier believed.

Serious troubles continue to beleaguer the operators of the Japanese nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture that was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan told parliament Monday the damaged reactors will be shut down sometime this year.

Kan says the timeline for bringing the four damaged reactors into a state of cold shutdown will not be changed. He insists that will happen in six to nine months.

That timetable is consistent with a plan Tokyo Electric Power Company announced one month ago. But since then it has become apparent that the reactors suffered worse damage than earlier thought. The number one reactor, it is now acknowledged, suffered a meltdown soon after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan.

Japanese experts say the fuel rods inside the reactor were fully exposed to the air and melted. However, the fuel apparently dropped to the bottom of the containment vessel, preventing it from going into a full meltdown stage.

Recent attempts to keep the reactor cool by filling the containment chamber with water have run into difficulty. The power company, known as TEPCO, says thousands of tons of highly radioactive contaminated water have leaked through holes created by melted fuel into the reactor basement.

TEPCO is scheduled to release a review of its shutdown plan on Tuesday.

On Sunday, the utility acknowledged that the fuel cores of two additional reactors at Fukushima-1 had also been substantially damaged and cooling water is leaking.

High radiation levels near the units are hampering critical repairs as workers can spend only a limited amount of time there to avoid overexposure.

The world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century was triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and huge tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast. Police say 25,000 people were killed or are still missing.

Concerns about radiation emanating from the plant forced the evacuation of numerous communities.

On Sunday, thousands more residents beyond the previously established 20-kilometer evacuation zone left their homes. Authorities say atmospheric conditions have raised long-term safety concerns about radiation levels in their towns and villages.

About 80,000 people were initially forced out of their homes within the original no-go zone. They have yet to be informed when they might be able to reside there again.

Analysts say the nuclear crisis alone could cost Japan between $50 billion and $100 billion. Beyond that, the country, which has been in the economic doldrums for years, needs to figure out how to pay for the equally significant cost of rebuilding hundreds of coastal communities that were washed away by tsunami and other cities that suffered substantial quake damage. Some economists predict that will cost an additional $200 billion.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs