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Is The Fukushima Nuclear Plant Really In A State Of ‘Cold Shutdown’?

Last week the Japanese government announced that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant achieved a state of “cold shutdown“, thus suggesting it was time to begin decommissioning the plant and commence cleanup efforts. But how long will the clean-up take? Is the nuclear plant really stable enough to begin decommissioning efforts?

The process of decommissioning Fukushima is a challenging, time-consuming, and expensive process. Some estimates put the costs at 1.15 trillion yen ($15 billion) while other experts claim it will cost at least 4 billion yen. Ultimately, these numbers won’t be confirmed for a few decades – once efforts are well underway.

“The most technically challenging issue is removing the fuel debris from the reactor core … To do so, we will need to develop quite a bit of technology in all fields,” Tepco official Kazuhiro Takei stated at a news conference.

Within the next two years, spent fuel will be removed from the facility. Melted fuel debris will be removed from the damaged reactors within ten years. The total time to completely decommission the plant will be at least 30 – 40 years.

However, Greenpeace disagrees with the very premise that Fukushima has achieved a state of “cold shutdown.”

Greenpeace notes that a cold shutdown is only declared on operating nuclear reactors. And since the Fukushima plant is obviously not in operation, claiming it is in a state of cold shutdown is misleading.

They claim Fukushima is not stable and that “nobody at Fukushima actually knows what state this highly radioactive molten fuel is in or what temperature it is.”

They conclude that the cold shutdown announcement last week was merely a “PR smokescreen.”

Do you agree with Greenpeace’s assessment of the situation? Do you think the Fukushima nuclear plant is stable?

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