Toshiba `could decommission Japan reactors` in 10 years

Toshiba can use expertise gained by its US subsidiary to hasten the process.

Tokyo: Reactor maker Toshiba has told the government it could decommission four stricken units at Japan`s crippled nuclear plant in around 10 years, a report said.

The time frame is around two-thirds of that needed to dismantle the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States after a 1979 incident in which part of a reactor core melted.

The company, one of two that makes reactors in Japan, submitted the proposal to Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the operator of the radiation-leaking Fukushima plant, and to the government, news agency Kyodo reported, citing unnamed sources.

Toshiba believes it can use expertise gained by its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident to hasten the process at Fukushima, Kyodo said.

"According to the proposal, it will take about 10 years to remove the fuel rods in the containers and the spent nuclear fuel rods in the storage pools from the four reactors, to demolish various facilities there and to improve soil conditions," Kyodo said.

Hitachi, which also makes reactors, is expected to file its own proposal in a tie-up with US firm General Electric, the agency said.

On Friday, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said there was no clear timetable in place for decommissioning.

"The Japanese government has always hoped to draft a detailed roadmap (towards decommissioning of the reactors)," he said.

"But the very fact that the reactors are unstable puts us in a situation where we have to continue to debate whether we can issue a responsible outlook," he said.

Edano has repeatedly said he cannot "prejudge" the outcome of the accident and warned that the situation could still take a turn for the worse.

The crippled plant has leaked radiation that has made its way into tap water and farm produce, sparking food export bans covering a large area.

Some highly radioactive water has leaked into the Pacific Ocean and this week TEPCO began dumping 11,500 tonnes of low-level radioactive water from the plant into the sea.

Workers at the plant on Thursday began injecting inert nitrogen gas into reactor No 1 in a bid to head off a possible explosion from a build-up of hydrogen reacting with oxygen from the air.

Bureau Report

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