Japan today marked four months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunamis that left more than 20,000 dead and missing, with nuclear officials predicting it will take decades to dismantle the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Removal of melted nuclear fuel at the plant won't begin until 2021; the fuel is apparently now in a solidified state and presents extremely difficult technical challenges. Full dismantling, including demolishing the reactors, will take decades more and will only happen after radiation levels fall, Japanese media reported, quoting a draft report on the cleanup.
Compiled by operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, the draft based the estimate on the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.
The Fukushima crisis is much more severe, and forced the evacuation of 80,000 people. In early June, Japanese nuclear officials doubled their estimate of the radiation released after March 11. The reevaluation followed the government's ranking of the event on par with the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
Workers at the plant are still trying to bring the critical situation under control by January 2012. Decontaminated water is being used to cool the reactors ahead of efforts to achieve a cold shutdown. … Read more