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Wednesday 28 December 2011

Japan releases 40-year nuke plant clean-up plan

*Japan releases 40-year nuke plant clean-up plan*

*Mari Yamaguchi <>*

*Associated Press**, 21 Dec 2011*

TOKYO: Japan released a lengthy roadmap Wednesday to clean up and fully
decommission a nuclear plant that went into meltdown after it was struck by
a huge tsunami, a process the government said would take as many as 40

Nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono acknowledged that decommissioning
three wrecked reactors plus spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant
was an "unprecedented project," and that the process was not "totally

"But we must do it even though we may face difficulties along the way,"
Hosono told a press conference.

Trade Minister Yukio Edano promised that authorities would move through the
process "firmly while ensuring safety at the plant."

He also vowed to pay attention to the concerns of tens of thousands of
residents displaced by the crisis when the plant was knocked out by Japan's
March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in the world's worst nuclear crisis since
the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

Under the plan, approved earlier Wednesday following consultation with
experts and nuclear regulators, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
will start removing spent fuel rods within two years from their pools
located on the top floor of each of their reactor buildings.

After that is completed, TEPCO will start removing the melted fuel, most
of which is believed to have fallen through the bottom of the core or even
down to the bottom of the larger, beaker-shaped containment vessel, a
process that is expected to be completed 25 years from now. The location
and conditions of the molten fuel is not exactly known.

Completely decommissioning the plant would require five to 10 more years
after the fuel debris removal, making the entire process up to 40 years,
according to the roadmap.

The process still requires development of robots and technology that can
get much of the work remotely because of extremely nigh radiation levels
inside the reactor buildings.

The decades-long process also would place an enormous financial burden on
TEPCO. The ministers said that the total cost estimate cannot be provided
immediately, but promised that there will be no delay because of financial

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced last Friday that the plant has
achieved "cold shutdown conditions," meaning the plant had been brought to
stability in the nine months since the accident.

The announcement officially paves the way for a new phase that will
eventually allow some evacuees back to less-contaminated areas currently
off limits.

Experts say the plant 140 miles (230 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo is
running with makeshift equipment and remains vulnerable to cold weather and

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