VIENNA (majirox news) — Nuclear Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono told the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) annual meeting Sept. 19 that a “cold shutdown” of the radiation oozing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant would be achieved “within this year,” slightly ahead of schedule.
Originally, plans suggested the shutdown would not be achieved until January next year.
Cold shutdown of the plant, which went into meltdown following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is a condition for consideration that would allow the more than 80,000 residents evacuated from a zone around the plant being permitted to return home.
“We are doing everything in our power to achieve the goal of reaching cold shutdown within the year and ahead of plan,” Hosono told the IAEA.
Hosono’s statements are expected to influence what Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23.
Hosono apparently wanted to show the international community that Japan is in control of the Fukushima reactor by achieving cold shutdown, which requires stabilizing temperatures within the reactor below 100 degrees Celsius (220 degrees Fahrenheit) and suppressing the spread of radiation.
Speeding up the cold shutdown of the plan will also accelerate plans to return evacuated residents to their homes. However, Hosono told the IAEA it remains unclear when evacuees will be permitted to return home.