by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 15, 2011
Japan is expected to announce early next week that it is broadly on track in its "roadmap" to stabilise the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, media reports said Friday.
Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has met several major goals for mid-July, including building a water decontamination and reactor cooling system and taking steps to avoid further explosions.
TEPCO said Friday it had begun injecting nitrogen into reactor three, which contains a volatile uranium-plutonium mix -- a step aimed at preventing more blasts like those that tore through the plant after the March 11 quake.
"We now have nitrogen injected into reactors one, two and three," a TEPCO spokeswoman told AFP, reporting on progress since the powerful seabed quake and tsunami crippled the coastal atomic power plant.
"We will offer a fresh roadmap on (Tuesday) July 19," she said, referring to the monthly review and revision of the plan to stabilise the facility which the government and the utility first drafted in April.
The Yomiuri Daily reported that the government plans next Tuesday to announce that they have nearly finished the first phase of defusing the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years ago.
The goal for phase two is to bring all reactors to stable "cold shutdown" by January at the latest, although decommissioning the six-reactor plant and cleaning up the site is expected to take many years.
However, despite the progress so far, TEPCO has not yet met other major goals for phase one -- including repairing the leaking reactor containment vessels, and removing all radioactive debris from the explosions.
Nonetheless, the government is also looking at resettling people in evacuated areas outside the plant's 20-kilometre (12-mile) no-go zone, pointing at the fact that the spread of radiation there has eased.
The so-called 'emergency evacuation preparation zone' -- in areas between 20km and 30km from the plant, where residents have been told to be ready to leave quickly -- may be scrapped by the end of July, the Yomiuri said.
The government has ordered some 80,000 people inside the 20km zone to evacuate, along with some communities to the northwest, which received high radioactive fallout due to wind and geographical patterns.
But people from other townships between 20km and 30km of the plant may be told they can return home, pending further safety tests of both the plant and the air and soil in the rural areas.
"Stabilisation of the cooling system will be a precondition for that," Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge disaster recovery, told reporters, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
Japan has also ordered "stress tests" on all of its 54 reactors, only 19 of which are now operational -- an order that sparked confusion and angered some host communities who had been assured reactors were safe.
The industry watchdog, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), on Friday outlined criteria for the tests in a submission to a second body, the Nuclear Safety Commission, with which it will jointly run the tests.
NISA said the plants will be tested for their resilience to four threats -- earthquakes, tsunamis, power blackouts, and the loss of cooling systems.
The tests will start with the 19 currently idled plants. In the second phase, power companies will be required to hand their reports on the operational reactors to the government by the end of the year.
earlier related report
The move follows news that beef from another 42 cattle has been shipped to Tokyo and other areas over recent months after the animals were fed straw containing radioactive caesium more than 70 times the legal limit.
The revelation pointed at gaps in food supply monitoring since the March 11 quake and tsunami disaster sparked the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago, contaminating the air, soil and sea.
Fukushima prefecture, which hosts the stricken atomic power plant, reported that a farm in Asakawa, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the plant, had shipped the beef to Tokyo and elsewhere between April 8 and July 6.
The straw the cattle were fed had been left in an open field and contained up to 97,000 becquerels of caesium per kilogram -- more than 70 times the government-designated limit, the prefecture said in a statement.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said that one beef sample tested at 650 becquerels per kg, exceeding the maximum limit of 500 becquerels per kg.
It was the third shipment of radioactive beef reported since last weekend, and officials believe much of it has already been consumed.
A cattle farm in Minamisoma, just outside the 20 kilometre no-go zone around the nuclear plant, was found to have shipped meat from cows fed with straw containing 75,000 becquerels of caesium per kg.
The government has sought to assure the public that there is no immediate health threat from eating standard servings of the beef.
More than four months into the nuclear crisis, Japan has not set up a centralised system to check food for radiation, relying instead on testing carried out by prefectures and municipalities.
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Radioactive ash found in waste plants near Tokyo
Tokyo (AFP) July 12, 2011
Japanese waste incineration plants near Tokyo have found high levels of radiation in ash, and officials said Tuesday it may be from garden waste contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The radioactive caesium was detected in plants in Kashiwa city in Chiba prefecture, northeast of Tokyo and about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the plant that has leaked radiation since the March 11 q ... read more
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