Friday, April 22, 2011

Japan Locks Down Fukushima

Japan on Thursday said it would ban people entering the 20 km (12 mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo, weeks after the tsunami-wrecked facility began leaking radiation. Tens of thousands of people left the zone after the March 11 quake smashed the power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), but some have since returned to their homes to collect belongings.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a press briefing that as of midnight on Thursday, people will only be allowed into the zone under government supervision. TEPCO, struggling to master the world’s most serious nuclear crisis has said it may take the rest of the year or longer to bring the plant under control.
 It wants a “cold shutdown” of the plant, 240 km (150 miles) from the capital, within six to nine months, a timeline experts say will be tough to meet. This week it began pumping highly contaminated water from one of the reactors, a key step towards repairing the cooling system that regulates the temperature of radioactive fuel rods.
But water levels were unchanged, the latest in a litany of problems engineers have faced since the crisis began, which has included pumping radioactive water into the sea, to the concern of Japan’s neighbours.

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