Japan's Nuclear Plant Operators Admit No Blueprint to Solve Crisis after a Month
Operators of Japan's damaged nuclear power plant admitted yesterday that they had not come up with a blueprint to end the nuclear crisis more than a month after it began.
The admission coincided with workers at Fukushima Daiichi power plant beginning the painstaking task of pumping thousands of tons of highly radioactive water into nearby containers to enable the repair of crucial cooling functions.
Radiation levels in the sea surrounding the nuclear power plant in northeast Japan were reported to have doubled to 23 times above the legal limit in the latest tests off nearby Minamisoma city.
New data also revealed the first discovery of small amounts of strontium – one of the most harmful radioactive elements which has been linked with leukaemia – in the soil near the nuclear plant, although not at levels harmful to humans.
Yesterday, Masataka Shimizu, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operators, said that the nuclear situation was stabilising.
However, he admitted that the company had not yet finalised a master plan to end the crisis, which has now been rated at a maximum nuclear disaster level of seven, the same as the 1986 Chernobyl incident.
"As instructed by Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan, we are working out the specific details of how to handle the situation so they can be disclosed as soon as possible," he said.
"We are making the utmost effort to bring the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi to a cold shutdown and halt the spread of radiation."
The slow task of reconstructing the region took a step forward yesterday with the opening of Sendai airport, which launched its first flights since March 11 after a major clean-up operation.
The airport in Sendai, the main economic hub for the disaster-hit region, was severely damaged during the tsunami, with hundreds of cars and even houses washed across the runway and fires breaking out in aircraft hangars.
Its reopening is expected to provide a much-needed boost to both local businesses and relief operations, which have been severely hampered by limited road and rail access.
Following forecasts that this will become the world's most expensive natural disaster costing as much as £2.2 billion (300 billion yen), the government yesterday cut its outlook for the economy for the first time in six months.
"The biggest risks, or uncertain factors for the economy, are when power supplies will recover, whether the nuclear situation will keep from worsening," said Kaoru Yosano, the economics minister.