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Fukushima Radiation Emissions Drop by Half Over Month

The level of radiation emissions from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan has dropped by half over the last month, Reuters quoted site operator Tokyo Electric Power as stating on Monday (see GSN, Oct. 14).

The six-reactor power plant was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people missing or dead in Japan. Radiation releases on a level not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster forced the evacuation of about 80,000 residents from a 12-mile zone surrounding the site in Fukushima prefecture.

"Our latest measurements show that radiation from the damaged reactors is 100 million becquerels per hour, which is one eight-millionth of the amount measured soon after the accident," Tokyo Electric Power Vice President Zengo Aizawa said to journalists.

That equals roughly .2 millisieverts of radiation per year along the edges of the facility, Aizawa said. Government regulations set a cap of one millisievert per year.

The company today also officially said that the facility this year would be placed into "cold shutdown," in which the site's reactors would remain below the boiling threshold of 100 degrees Celsius and contaminant releases would cease. The previous formal time line had set January as the point at which that level of stability would be achieved.

"We still need to proceed with care. We need to continue monitoring whether the temperatures of the reactors and radiation levels being emitted remain stable going forward," Yoshinori Moriyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, said during a press conference with Aizawa.

Placing the plant in cold shutdown is a key element to efforts to reopen the exclusion zone around the facility to residents. However, roughly 930 square miles of land around the plant could require remediation.

Nuclear fuel within the plant's reactors might stay there for a decade, and it could require further decades to cleanse the site of radioactive contaminants, according to Tokyo Electric Power (Shinichi Saoshiro, Reuters, Oct. 17).

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