04/18/2011, 00.00
JAPAN

Fukushima, nine months to return to normal at nuclear power plant

The reactors and their spent fuel rods will be cooled in three months, a further three to six months should lead to a "cold shutdown" of the system. In 2012 families evacuated from the danger zone may be able to begin their return. Toyota reopens all plants today for the first time since March 11.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - It will take six to nine months to achieve complete control of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the company that operates the plant expects to cool the reactors and spent nuclear fuel over the next three months, bringing the situation to a stable level, and continuously reducing the level of radioactive leaks.

Three to six months will be needed, according to TEPCO, to ensure a "cold shutdown" of the system, a state in which the water cooling fuel rods is below 100 degrees celsius and the reactors are considered stable. This would allow many of the families evacuated from the area to return to their homes in 2012.

"This is the biggest crisis since the founding of our company,” Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata told a briefing in Tokyo, adding that he would likely resign to take responsibility, possibly after a shareholders' meeting in June. It is not inconceivable that the very survival of TEPCO is in question because of the high compensation that the company must pay to those affected by the nuclear crisis, the worst since Chernobyl. In an economic framework seriously affected by the disaster, a positive note was Toyota’s announcement that starting today, the company will reopen all its facilities in Japan, for the first time since March 11, the date of the earthquake and tsunami, and although the work will be reduced to 50% due to the lack of parts to assemble.

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