A peek into Fukushima N-plant

A peek into Fukushima N-plant

Japan takes a group of journalists to wrecked nuclear station

Units five and six of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station seen through a bus window on Saturday. AP

Officials shepherded a group of about 30 mainly Japanese journalists through the plant for the first time since the meltdown of the plant’s reactors, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

Cooling systems at the plant, 240 km northeast of Tokyo, were knocked out by the powerful tsunami and evidence of the devastation was clear to see. The nuclear reactor buildings were still surrounded by crumpled trucks, twisted metal fences, and large, dented water tanks. Smaller office buildings around the reactors were left as they were abandoned on March 11, when the tsunami hit. Cranes filled the skyline in testimony to recovery efforts.

Journalists on the tour mainly stayed on a bus as they were driven around the plant and were not allowed near the reactor buildings.

Still, they all had to wear protective suits, double layers of gloves and plastic boot covers and hair nets. All carried respiration masks and radiation detectors.

“From the data at the plant that I have seen, there is no doubt that the reactors have been stabilised,” Masao Yoshida, chief of the Daiichi plant, told the group.

The compound may still be littered with rubble, but Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the utility operating the plant, has succeeded in bringing down the temperatures at the three damaged reactors from levels considered dangerous. They are confident they will be able to declare a “cold shutdown” — when temperatures are stable below boiling point — as scheduled by the end of this year.

While Tepco had managed to stabilise conditions so workers could enter the reactor buildings, Yoshida said there was still danger involved for those working there.
The disaster prompted the government to declare a 20-km no-entry zone around the plant, forcing the evacuation of about 80,000 residents.

A cold shutdown is one of the conditions that must be met before the government considers lifting its entry ban.