• Kyodo, Staff Report


Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Monday the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant can be brought under control in around six to nine months despite the meltdown confirmed in reactor No. 1.

Kan continued to back the timetable set last month by Tokyo Electric Power Co., which said in mid-April that it will take at least six months before it can stabilize the reactors.

“There may be some changes to the methods (for stabilizing the crisis), but I believe we can move forward with the plan without changing the time line,” Kan told the Lower House Budget Committee.

Tepco is to update its road map for the crisis on Tuesday.

The remarks came a day after the utility said that the No. 1 reactor likely went through a meltdown about 16 hours after the March 11 quake and tsunami damaged the plant and took out its cooling systems.

A preliminary analysis released Sunday said that No. 1 had already entered a critical state by 6:50 a.m. on March 12, with most of its fuel having melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel, Tepco said. On Thursday, Tepco released data showing some of the fuel rods had melted.

The reactor automatically halted operations immediately after the 2:46 p.m. quake, but the water level in the reactor dropped and the temperature began rising at around 6 p.m. The damage to the fuel rods had started by 7:30 p.m., with most of them having melted by 6:50 a.m. the following day, the utility said. The building then exploded at about 3:36 p.m.

Goshi Hosono, the Kan adviser who is handling the crisis, said Monday that reactors 2 and 3 may have experienced similar damage.

Hosono said an analysis of Tepco’s data shows the two units were left uncooled for more than six hours after the disasters.

“We have to learn a lesson from our failure to recognize that reactor 1’s core had melted,” he said.

Earlier, Hosono said ways are being studied to decontaminate the water used to cool the fuel so it can be recirculated instead of flooding the facility.

The government will also be compiling the road map amid growing frustration among those forced to evacuate because of the nuclear emergency in Fukushima Prefecture.

Kan said the government’s outlook for the evacuees, also to be released Tuesday, will give them a timetable for when they can expect to leave their shelters or return to their homes.

The nuclear accident triggered by the twin disasters—a magnitude 9 earthquake and a gigantic tsunami—prompted the government to direct people within 20 km of the Fukushima plant to evacuate and those between 20 and 30 km away to stay indoors or voluntarily leave.

Japan has since expanded the hot zone beyond the 20-km radius because of concerns over cumulative radiation exposure.

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