the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been successfully brought to a state of cold shutdown.
The state is a target in the second phase of a timetable established by the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company to bring the plant under control.
At a meeting of the government nuclear disaster task force on Friday, Noda declared that the reactors are now stable and that the second phase is complete.
Let me note here that cold shutdown is the reactor state when...
- The reactor is subcritical (chain reaction cannot be sustained without an external source of neutrons)
- The cooling system is at atmospheric pressure
- The cooling system is at a temperature below the boiling point of water
In a light-water reactor (LWR) - and that's the type of the reactor that was installed at Fukushima - that means that the reactor cooling water will not boil, significantly simplifying the maintenance.
This announcement certainly sounds encouraging, although no timetable yet is available on the return of the people evacuated after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake crippled the plant and led to hydrogen explosions and radiation releases (and the number of evacuees is more than 80,000).
Another interesting bit of news is the exposé from Tomohiko Suzuki, a Japanese investigative reporter who worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant incognito. According to Suzuki, the emergency crews working at the Fukushima plant were seriously mobbed up.
Mr Suzuki, who writes for weekly news magazines in Japan and specialises in yakuza [Japanese organized crime syndicates] coverage, said gangsters were prominent in both the Fukushima area and the nuclear industry even before the accident, and their influence had grown as they creamed subsidies for finding labour to work at the site.
"The yakuza are very much involved in this industry. They are in charge of finding and dispatching workers to the site," he told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "It's rumoured . . . that yakuza people who drove ordinary cars before the accident are now driving very fancy cars."
He said he had met only one yakuza on the job, but that there were yakuza-aligned members among the Fukushima 50, the so-called nuclear samurai who battled the initial crisis amid explosions and soaring radiation levels.
The same report claims a variety of coverups, shoddy work, and incompetence by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) management.
I am not familiar with Mr. Suzuki's prior work. I cannot vouch that everything he says in his book "Yakuza to genpatsu" ("The yakuza and nuclear power") that just got published in Japan is 100% accurate, so caveat lector - just thought this is interesting.
To date, scientists estimate that the total radiation dispersed over a broad swath of northern Japan is equal to about 15% of what was released from the Chernobyl accident 25 years ago, the worst nuclear accident in history.
7:53 AM PT: The reaction to this diary is sad,but not surprising, considering the absolutely hysterical and fact-free treatment of the 2011 quake and its aftermath by certain actors here.