Japan nuclear power plant company Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is now saying it is aiming to achieve a “cold shutdown” of its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 6 to 9 months.
TEPCO said the process will be one of cooling the reactors and spent fuel to a satisfactorily stable level within 3 months, and then taking the reactors into “cold shutdown” another 3 to 6 months after that has been achieved.
The company said the most urgent jobs are to prevent hydrogen explosions at three of the six reactors, and to adequately store tens of thousands of tonnes of radioactive water that has built up at the nuclear site. Radioactive water has been pumped into the sea from the plant, which has concerned both China and South Korea.
Recent information has come to light that indicates much more radiation leaked from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the first few days of the nuclear emergency than first thought, and the nuclear crisis level was raised to the highest level.
The company could not say when the tens of thousands of evacuated citizens would be able to return. Banri Kaieda, the trade minister, has indicated that some citizens will be able to return home when the plant has been stabilized.
TEPCO has said it will continue to monitor radiation levels in the surrounding area as the plant is stabilized, and work with the government to decide on an appropriate time for lifting the exclusion zone.