Now that Japan has declared victory in the first, crisis phase of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, attention is turning to the next phase: the decades-long process of cleaning up and dismantling the reactors.
Speaking at his office in Tokyo, Noda said today that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) had contained the nuclear crisis that occurred after the reactors in northeast Japan were crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“A stable condition has been achieved, and we can consider the accident itself contained,” Noda said.
“Achieving cold shutdown does not change the condition of the reactors,” Tadashi Narabayashi, a former reactor safety researcher atToshiba Corp. (6502) and now a nuclear engineering professor at Hokkaido University, said by phone. “It does mean the government will start reviewing evacuation zones and perhaps lifting restrictions depending on extent of contamination.”
“Now the hardest part starts, which is the cleanup,” said Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California, who worked as a consultant on decommissioning Chernobyl.
“Work on decommissioning is a long way off. For now, they have to focus on making robots to remove melted fuel and developing new technologies to demolish facilities,” said Narabayashi at Hokkaido University.
In addition, there are about 7 kilometers of plastic pipe in the makeshift cooling system that will need to be replaced with metal versions, he said.
Radiation has forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people and the government has yet to say how many can return and when.
“We want to make a united effort for them to return home as soon as possible and rebuild their livelihoods,” Noda said.
It’s an achievement to have restored cooling and gotten water temperatures to 100 degrees, said Arnie Gunderson, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer who has testified to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Fukushima, said in a phone interview.
“But I don’t know why they choose to say cold shutdown because that’s an affront to those in the industry who really know what the term means,” he said. “That nuclear core is still in a configuration where the center is extraordinarily hot.”
Gunderson said that declaring the cold shutdown at Fukushima risks further eroding people’s faith in the government’s ability to regulate the nuclear power industry.
“I actually think it’s going to blow up in their face,” he said. “In the eyes of the Japanese public, the last thing they need to do is exaggerate. And this is an exaggeration.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) fell more than 10 percent after the Mainichi newspaper said the company will be taken over by the government after the Fukushima nuclear disaster brought it close to collapse.
Source: Business Week
- Restart of Japanese Nuclear Plants Should Be Postponed Until Crisis Over – At Least (enformable.com)