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Japan gov't poised to declare cold shut down at Fukushima nuke plant

(Xinhua)

08:39, December 15, 2011

TOKYO, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government will soon declare that all the reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility are stable nine months after a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that knocked out the plant's vital cooling systems, causing the reactors to meltdown and spark a nuclear crisis on a level unseen globally for 25-years.

Japan's Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) public broadcaster said Wednesday that the official announcement would be made by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a news conference on Friday.

NHK said that the announcement will confirm the plant's operators, Tokyo Electric Power Co., also known as TEPCO, along with Japan's nuclear safety agencies have achieved the second stage of a timetable to bring the crippled plant under control, as part of a broader roadmap to fully decommission the plant and dispose of the nuclear waste.

"(The government) says temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels and inside the containment vessels have basically fallen below 100 degrees Celsius. The amount of radioactive materials emitted has also dropped, with radiation levels on the compound's border falling below one millisievert per year," the NHK reported.

But experts have said that the wording used by the government on Friday may be ambiguous and refer to cold shutdown "conditions" being met, rather than a definitive cold shutdown as per October's revised timetable.

As the precise temperature of melted fuel in damaged reactors cannot be accurately measured, there's no way TEPCO can determine exactly how stable the damaged reactors are, leading experts to warn that the government should not be over-zealous in hitting deadlines to declare the plant safe, at the risk of misleading the public and globally concerned community.

The next phase of the government's lengthy, 30-year decommissioning roadmap will see some of the 100,000 residents previously evacuated from the vicinity of the radiation-leaking plant allowed to return home, officials have said.

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