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Photo taken by an unmanned helicopter on 15 April 2011 shows part of the building housing the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima plant Photo courtesy of Tokyo Electric Power Co./Kyodo

Japanese nuclear crisis under control 'within six to nine months'

The operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima says it plans to allow some residents to return to their homes once the crisis is over.

THE OPERATOR OF the crippled nuclear power plant leaking radiation in northern Japan has announced a plan that would bring the crisis under control within six to nine months and allow some evacuated residents to return to their homes.

The phased road map for ending the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, presented by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), included plans to cover the damaged reactor buildings to contain the radiation and eventually remove the nuclear fuel.

In the first three months of the plan, the company hopes to steadily reduce the level of leaking radiation. Three to six months after that, it hopes to get the release of radioactive materials firmly under control.

Frustrations have been mounting over TEPCO’s failure to resolve the nuclear crisis more than a month after a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, knocking out power and cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

Japan’s Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said some people from the area could return home within six to nine months, although this was not confirmed by TEPCO. He said:

Of course, some people will be unable to return home, but we will keep everyone informed.

The company is focusing on cooling the reactors and spent fuel pools, decontaminating water that has been contaminated by radiation, mitigating the release of radiation into the atmosphere and soil, and measuring and reducing the amount of radiation affecting the evacuation area.

In a show of support for a staunch American ally, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed admiration and sympathy for the Japanese as she visited Tokyo today. She told reporters:

We pledge our steadfast support for you and your future recovery. We are very confident that Japan will demonstrate the resilience that we have seen during this crisis in the months ahead

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, fighting criticism over his administration’s handling of the disaster, has called resolving the nuclear crisis his “top priority.”

As Japan has begun planning for reconstruction and mulling how to pay for it, Kan’s political opponents have resumed calls for his resignation after refraining from criticism in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Explosions, fires and other malfunctions have hindered efforts to repair the stricken plant and stem radiation leaks, following the damage caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s east coast on 11 March.

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