Fukushima nuclear plant cleanup may take over 40 years: IAEA



Tokyo: A United Nations nuclear watchdog team has said that Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the Fukushima power plant, and urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to improve stability at the facility.

Japan Times quoted the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, as saying, that damage at the nuclear plant is so complex that it is impossible to predict how long the cleanup may last.

The government and TEPCO have predicted the cleanup would take up to 40 years. They still have to develop technology and equipment that can operate under fatally high radiation levels to locate and remove melted fuel.

The reactors must be kept cool and the plant must stay safe and stable, and those efforts to ensure safety could slow the process down, the report said. The plant still runs on makeshift equipment and frequently suffers glitches.

Just over the past few weeks, the plant suffered nearly a dozen problems ranging from extensive power outages to leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools. Earlier this month, a rat short-circuited a switchboard, causing an extensive outage and cooling loss for up to 30 hours.

Lentijo said water management is "probably the most challenging" task for the plant for now. The problems have raised concerns about whether the plant, crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, can stay intact throughout a decommissioning process.

The problems have prompted officials to compile risk-reduction measures and review decommissioning plans. Lentijo, an expert on nuclear fuel cycles and waste technology, warned of more problems to come. He said it is important to have a very good capability to identify as promptly as possible failures and to establish compensatory measures.

ANI