JAPAN | No-go zone easing may be moved up

Posted on July 18, 2011

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JAPAN | JAPAN TIMES | 18 July 2011

FUKUSHIMA — Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of dealing with the nuclear crisis, met Saturday with the leaders of municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant and said the government may look to ease the 20-km no-entry zone terms when the radiation-spewing reactors are stabilized.

According to participants, the two also said the government hopes to move forward the schedule for stabilizing the reactors from January as previously planned.

Kan’s meeting with the leaders of the municipalities near the nuclear plant came as it appeared that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had met its Sunday deadline under its “Step 1” phase of achieving a stable cooling of the reactors.

The first phase of Tepco’s timetable for bringing the troubled nuclear plant under control includes injecting nitrogen into reactor 3 to prevent a hydrogen explosion.

“To enable a large number of people to go home, we will put all our efforts into realizing ‘Step 2’ sooner than planned,” Kan said during the meeting with the mayors of Minamisoma, Futaba and other municipalities at a hotel in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.

The second phase plan to contain the crisis includes achieving a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors by January and reducing the amount of water at the plant contaminated with radioactive substances.

The government also plans to consult with the municipal leaders to narrow down more areas designated for possible evacuation near the plant, Hosono said.

Hosono said the scaling down of the designated areas should occur after radioactive decontamination and other steps are taken, but he did not mention when the designated areas would be reduced.

He said the central government will decide on when to narrow down the areas designated for possible evacuation after confirming their safety and thoroughly consulting local leaders.

In April, a zone covering nine municipalities within a 20 km radius of the Fukushima plant was designated as off-limits by the government, affecting around 10,500 people.

A zone 20 to 30 km from the plant was established in which residents were ordered to prepare for possible evacuation or to remain indoors during an emergency situation. About 58,500 residents are subject to the directive.

Hosono also said the central government will provide full financial support for the disposal of radioactive waste at the nuclear complex, which has been crippled since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Earlier in the day, Hosono said during a meeting with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato that the state will consider addressing the issue of radioactive waste “on its own responsibility — without leaving the matter to local municipalities.”

Hosono made the remarks in response to Sato’s demand that all expenses in connection with the disposal of radioactive waste related to the crisis be covered by the state coffers.

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