Japan faces many hurdles before government can safely declare Fukushima Reactors in Cold Shutdown

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One important landmark in the process of dealing with the disastrous accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has come into sight.

In the latest progress schedule for the work to bring the nuclear crisis under control, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, clearly stated that the crippled reactors will be brought to a stable state known as “cold shutdown” by the end of the year.

But what exactly does cold shutdown mean?

Before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, cold shutdown generally referred to a stable condition that is realized by shutting down, cooling the reactor and containing radiation when a potentially dangerous situation arises.  But the reactors at the Fukushima plant are not in normal conditions.

It is likely that some of the fuel in the reactors has melted and their pressure vessels are damaged.  It is impossible to gain accurate information about the conditions of the reactors as in normal times.

The current emergency situation where exposed nuclear fuel is presumably lying in damaged reactors is likely to continue.

Another cause for worry is continued aftershocks that rock various parts of eastern Japan from time to time. There are concerns about what kind of effect a major earthquake would have on the fuel inside the reactors.

There are still high hurdles to overcome before the government can safely declare the reactors to be in cold shutdown.

Source: ajw.asahi.com, via Asahi Japan Watch’s twitter
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