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Fukuskima declared stable after reaching 'cold shutdown'

Nine months after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, the government has declared the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to be stable, having reached a "cold shutdown.”

Japan fukushima nuclear meltdown 2011 12 02Enlarge
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda looks at radiation being measured in Fukushima City, Fukushima prefecture, Oct. 18, 2011. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

Nine months after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, the country's government has declared the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to be stable, having reached a "cold shutdown,” the Washington Post reported.

This means that water used to cools nuclear fuel rods remains below boiling point, so the fuel cannot reheat.

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In addition, airborne leaks into the environment are reported to be almost entirely sealed.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda made the announcement at a nuclear task-force meeting, but the government said it would take decades for Fukushima to be completely dismantled, the BBC reported.

"Even if unforeseeable incidents happen, the situation is such that radiation levels on the boundary of the plant can now be maintained at a low level."

A 12-mile exclusion zone remains in place around the plant, which was badly damaged in March when waves knocked out vital cooling systems, causing blasts at four of its reactors.

Experts say the cold shutdown status, seen as a key milestone in efforts to bring the plant under control, means that while problems at the plant are “less dire” – they have not disappeared, the Post reported.

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Fukushima, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company and is 150 miles north-east of the capital Tokyo, is still leaking radiation into the sea.

Workers have been using sea water to cool the reactors, and contaminated waste water has been released into the sea, the BBC reported.

Its makeshift cooling system is also reportedly vulnerable to earthquakes.

But with the reactors stable, it is understood the Japanese government will review the evacuation zones in the area, in which more than 80,000 people were made to leave.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/111216/fukushima-stable-cold-shutdown