The first phase of work to bring the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant under control has been completed as scheduled, a Japanese minister said.
"We believe Step 1 of stably cooling (the reactors) and eliminating risks of a hydrogen explosion has been achieved," Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of handling the nuclear accident, said in a TV program yesterday, referring to the road map and time schedule issued April 17 by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. The utility, known as TEPCO, shares that view.
But going forward, concerns linger about whether the country's worst nuclear crisis will be contained as planned as some Step 1 goals were not achieved, including targets for decontaminating radioactive water accumulating at the site.
Under the road map, TEPCO aimed to bring the reactors crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami to a stable condition by Sunday as a first step, and to a "cold shutdown" by next January at the latest as a second step.
TEPCO and the government will announce a new roadmap Tuesday that will highlight the work to be accomplished over the next three to six months, during Step 2 and beyond.
The government-ordered no-entry zone within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant is expected to be reviewed after cold shutdown is achieved under Step 2, government officials said.
During Step 1, TEPCO set up a system to recycle decontaminated water to cool the plant's damaged reactors, while taking measures to cool spent-fuel pools there ahead of schedule.
It also has been injecting nitrogen gas into the Nos 1-3 reactors to prevent a hydrogen explosion, which could release massive amounts of radioactive substances.
The utility had aimed to process around 1,200 tons of highly radioactive water per day using the new system, but the achievement rate has been only 70 percent so far, company's officials said.
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