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Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda assured the nation in December that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis had been reined in, but as the true extent of the damage inside the crippled reactors remains unknown a year on and with the complex still appearing vulnerable to another major quake, the government and Tepco’s claims that the facility is secure are being questioned.

Reactor engineers and seismologists believe another nightmare meltdown scenario is unlikely, but say the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. still face massive obstacles and a host of challenges in decommissioning the plant, including decontaminating the wrecked reactor buildings and plugging cracked containment vessels. Even then, scrapping the plant conceivably could take more than 30 years.

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