December 16, 2011
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan has declared an end to the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, saying technicians have regained control of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
“Today, we have reached a great milestone,” Mr. Noda said in a televised address to the nation. “The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all.”
The declaration — which comes nine months after a calamitous earthquake and tsunami destroyed the seaside plant, triggering a huge radiation leak — could set the stage for the return of some evacuees to affected areas.
The government will now focus on removing the fuel stored at the site, opening up the ravaged reactors themselves and eventually dismantling the plant, a process that is expected to take at least four decades, Mr. Noda said.
But for many of the people of Fukushima, the crisis is far from over. More than 160,000 people remain displaced, and even as the government lifts evacuation orders for some communities, many are refusing to return home.
“This does not ring true for us at all,” said Hirofumi Onuma, 52, deputy principal of a high school in Minamisoma, which was evacuated after the disaster. After a desperate clean-up effort, the school was declared safe and reopened at the end of October. Still, only 350 of 705 students have returned.
“The plant is like a black box, and we don’t know what is really happening,” Mr. Onuma said. “I feel no relief.”
The nuclear crisis led to soul searching in a nation already worn down by two lost decades of economic growth, a rapidly aging and now shrinking population, and political catharsis.
Blame for the accident has been laid on a confluence of many factors: a once-in-a-millennium tsunami, a site vulnerable to seismic disasters, a response that fell short and cozy ties between nuclear operators and those tasked to oversee them.
Many experts still doubt the government’s assertion that the plant is now in a stable state and worry that officials are declaring victory only to quell public anger over the accident.
The announcement on Friday of the equivalent of a “cold shutdown,” a technical term that means a reactor’s cooling system operates below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, assumes that the reactors are intact, said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at the Research Reactor Institute at Kyoto University and a prominent nuclear critic.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, has acknowledged that the uranium fuel in three reactors has likely melted through their containments. Some experts, including Mr. Koide, suspect the fuel could be threatening groundwater.
Experts have also expressed concern over signs of sporadic “recriticality” of the fuel, a phenomenon in which nuclear fission resumes in melted nuclear fuel lying on the floor of a storage pool or reactor core. Tokyo Electric, however, has said any fission is not likely to be self-sustaining. The plant continues to leak radiation. And water used to cool the reactors is still building up at the plant, forcing officials to consider releasing contaminated water into the ocean.
“There is absolutely no cold shutdown,” Mr. Koide said. “It is a term that has been trotted out to give the impression we are reaching some sort of closure.”
“We still face a long battle of epic proportions, and by the time it is really over, most of us will be long dead,” he added.
But Goshi Hosono, minister of state for nuclear power policy, said that recovery work at the plant had progressed enough that any further debacles could be averted.
“We may still face various troubles, but the plant is now stable enough to overcome them,” he said.
The unfolding destruction at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, 160 miles north of Tokyo, has become etched in Japan’s psyche.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s northeastern coast knocked out vital cooling systems at the site, causing the cores of three reactors and the spent fuel at a fourth to overheat. Hydrogen explosions eventually blew the tops off three reactor buildings.
Mr. Noda paid tribute to what he called the heroic effort of workers who risked their lives to bring the plant under control.
“I speak for the nation in giving thanks for the heroic and self-sacrificing acts that saved Japan from this nuclear disaster,” he said.
The severity of the disaster has led to movement against nuclear power in Japan. On Sept. 19, an estimated 60,000 people marched in central Tokyo to urge the Japanese government to abandon nuclear power, and smaller protests have followed.
Only eight of the nation’s 54 reactors are operating, as local communities resist the restarting of reactors closed for maintenance or inspection since the March disaster. Mr. Noda has pushed for a swift restart of reactors that pass government-mandated stress tests, however. The government has also moved toward restarting exports of nuclear technology.
Then there is the aftermath. Mr. Noda said that a cleanup of radiation, protecting public health and compensating victims of the nuclear disaster were now the government’s priorities. He said he would set aside more than 1 trillion yen — nearly $13 billion — to pay to decontaminate areas of eastern Japan.
The government, however, has acknowledged that some land may not be habitable for decades.
Safeguarding Japan’s food supply also poses a challenge. Radioactive cesium, which could increase the risk of cancer, has been detected in a wide range of produce including beef, tea leaves, mushrooms, baby milk and rice, the nation’s staple.
“Not all of our battles are over,” Mr. Noda said, “but we will fight to the end.”
“It is a challenge for Japan, a challenge for humanity,” he said.
Yoshihiko Noda was born on May 20th, 1957 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshihiko_Noda
May 20th, 1957
5 + 20 +1+9+5+7 = 47 = his life lesson = what he is here to learn = Famous. Internationally known. The future.
May 20th, 1957
5 + 20 +2+0+1+1 = 29 = his personal year (from May 20th, 2011 to May 19th, 2012) = Competency. Experts.
29 year + 11 (November) = 40 = his personal month (from November 20th, 2011 to December 19th, 2011) = Help out your fellow human beings in their neighborhoods and communities.
40 month + 16 (16th of the month on Friday November 16th, 2011) = 56 = his personal day = Being diplomatic. Walking on eggshells. Make up your own mind on the matter.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
761898926 5641 72
his path of destiny = 72 = Status quo. The same old same old.
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