IAEA chief confident progress being made at Fukushima plant

FUKUSHIMA —

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant is steadily making progress to contain damage from the crisis.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said he is optimistic that workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could bring the radiation leaking reactors under control by early next year as planned.

“I observed the sites directly and I believe efforts to contain the damage are steadily making progress,” Amano told reporters. “So many workers are tackling the problems enthusiastically. I think the outlook of resolving the crisis is bright.”

Amano’s visit to the plant Monday was his first since the crisis following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed power and cooling systems. The accident caused the reactor cores to mostly melt down and leak massive amount of radiation into the environment.

Amano donned protective coveralls and a mask for the tour of the plant where he inspected the extent of damage to the reactor buildings and the water treatment system that recycles contaminated water as coolant. Escorted and briefed about the latest updates by plant chief Masao Yoshida, the IAEA director also briefly stopped at the plant’s crisis management headquarters to talk to workers.

Japanese government officials and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said last week that the reactors have somewhat stabilized in the first four months and they plan to bring them to a cold shutdown within six months as initially planned.

A reactor reaches cold shutdown when the temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel falls below 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). That would mean water used as a coolant no longer boils off into steam and the amount of radiation released could be minimized.

Before he left Vienna on Sunday, Amano said in a statement that the agency also thinks TEPCO’s plant to achieve cold shutdown by early next year is possible.

Amano is also expected to meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other top officials to discuss the crisis, as well as ways to improve nuclear safety in Japan and reduce radioactive contamination in the Fukushima area. He is also set to attend an annual United Nations nuclear disarmament meeting in Matsumoto, central Japan, later this week.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    Kan is correct in wanting to wean Japan of nuclear power -- it is disgusting that other parties want to build MORE plants and keep this disaster going, especially since it's been proven they are receiving most of their funds from electric companies.

    Watch this, and tell me if it doesn't upset you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVuGwc9dlhQ

  • -2

    zichi

    It took him nearly five months to get from Vienna to Fukushima?

  • -2

    some14some

    It took him nearly five months to get from Vienna to Fukushima?

    sad homecoming for Amano Yukiya.

  • -1

    zichi

    Reactors 1-3 were badly damaged by the earthquake, coolant pipes twisted and ripped apart, the nuclear disaster happened even before the tsunami struck, but both the government and TEPCO continue to blame the tsunami because if they admitted the disaster was caused by the earthquake then they would also be stating that no reactor in Japan was built to take a mega earthquake like the one on Mar.11.

  • 3

    Lunchbox

    smithinjapan,

    I watched the video, and I'm not shocked or upset. I'm surprised that you are, you've lived in Japan for a long time and you know how Japanese society works. The questions those citizens are asking of the government officials are unanswerable. The people of Fukushima, and the rest of Japan have been living with nuclear power for all these years, and now something bad happens and they demand answers and solutions right now. They have been obliviously living their lives for 40 years with this problem on their doorstep. They have also ignored all the other potential risks that they live with everyday, that's how this country works. There are no solutions to this problem, Fukushima is a complete stuff up and the Japanese system cannot handle it . No one can afford to evacuate the whole contaminated area, the government is not capable of overseeing proper monitoring of radiation levels in the area for the next 20 years, and the Japanese fisheries or agricultural unions are not going to put priority on people's health ahead of keeping the funds coming in. It is always the case here, how can you not see that? Have you forgotten yukijirushi just 11 years ago? That all happened because of the same reasons, greed, corruption, and lies. Minamata 50 years ago, greed corruption and lies. You are expecting and demanding too much. This is not a Western country. This is Japan, this is Asia. Do you really think that any government is capable of controlling this whole mess? Do you think that the poeple you work with and meet everyday are willing to take sacrifices in their lives to protect further generations? If you do, then I would like to live where you live, because there is no part of Japan like that that I've ever been to.

  • -3

    Cricky

    It's a disgrace an absolute disgrace what is happening these people us in areas beyond too, served poison food air, water...while government workers are doing the Doe Doe, blandly walking towards death. What buttons do you have to push to make a change?

  • -1

    Spidapig24

    Lunchbox,

    I watched the video, and I'm not shocked or upset.

    So you are not worried that the officials dont give a toss about the people there?

    I'm surprised that you are, you've lived in Japan for a long time and you know how Japanese society works.

    So because the people have stopped being sheeple they should be ignored. Its about time the Japanese people woke up from their dream and started asking what is going on

    The people of Fukushima, and the rest of Japan have been living with nuclear power for all these years, and now something bad happens and they demand answers and solutions right now. They have been obliviously living their lives for 40 years with this problem on their doorstep.

    So you are saying its the citizens job to ensure nuclear safety, you are right about 1 thing though. The Japanese have had nuclear power for 40 years then why hasnt the government planned for a worst case disaster better. Why are they bumbling their way through this worse than Homer Simpson. Actually in all fairness even Homer would handle this better.

    They have also ignored all the other potential risks that they live with everyday, that's how this country works.

    Again who is responsible for the safety of these plants the people that live next door or the politicians and operators who run and approve these plants? You blame the people who live next door. Are they the incompetent fools that let this happen or are they the people suffering with the aftermath.

    There are no solutions to this problem, Fukushima is a complete stuff up and the Japanese system cannot handle it .

    So true and in Japanese style if we cant handle the issue we will deny its a big issue. Everyone back to work nothing to see here.

    No one can afford to evacuate the whole contaminated area, the government is not capable of overseeing proper monitoring of radiation levels in the area for the next 20 years, and the Japanese fisheries or agricultural unions are not going to put priority on people's health ahead of keeping the funds coming in. It is always the case here, how can you not see that?

    So lets just throw our hands up in the air and say oh well all to hard. There is a word for that in english its "quitter" and you get nowhere in life if your one of them. Maybe its time the Japanese people grew a pair and stood up and demanded that they get some answers not this half assed crap they have been expected to swallow.

    You are expecting and demanding too much. This is not a Western country. This is Japan, this is Asia. Do you really think that any government is capable of controlling this whole mess? Do you think that the poeple you work with and meet everyday are willing to take sacrifices in their lives to protect further generations? If you do, then I would like to live where you live, because there is no part of Japan like that that I've ever been to.

    We that is the scariest thing l have ever heard in my life. What you are effectively saying is Japan is a country of quitters, its all to hard and scary so lets take it lying down and risk our health and the health of our kids. Yep, this is Japan. Imagine if this happened in the US, or another western country, would the government be able to act the way it is? No way.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    Lunchbox: "I'm surprised that you are, you've lived in Japan for a long time and you know how Japanese society works."

    True, I've lived here more than a decade, so are you suggesting I should therefore not be upset by the complete ignorance of the people in the video? Now, I often say that Japan is a land of apathy, but I think this is the breaking point, and I pray that the people will not accept such crap in the future and instead DEMAND that the politicians of the future do what Kan has suggested and phase-out nuclear power. Sorry, amigo, I'm not one of the people who you at once condemn and at the same time suggest I should be.

    Quite frankly it amazes me that you think people shouldn't be upset by the video and the attitude of the government. Or maybe it doesn't, Lunchbox... you do, after all, have some pretty unusual ideas about the world in terms of 'good' and 'bad', etc.

  • -2

    YuriOtani

    smithinjapan, Always thought it was too bad that Okinawa had only coal power plants. Now it seems that we are actually lucky. So in the end Okinawa gets the majority of the Americans and the mainland gets radioactive substances and double talk. My question as I leave to take my foreign posting is what is the truth? As sad as it sounds perhaps the Chinese or Russians will send some teams in to get real radioactive readings. The question is will anyone that is alive today be allow to return in their lifetimes?

  • -2

    wanderlust

    Amano was here just a couple of weeks after the disaster, but was hampered by the main role of the IAEA in preventing nuclear weapon proliferation; they also had to wait for Japan to request help, he could not force it on them. They have a 35 country member committee, that spends most of its time getting the 150 or so member countries to agree on small print issues, let alone an instant decision to provide help.

    Maybe the IAEA will change to become more pro-active, which is what many people wanted, but they are still deep in the pockets of the "nuclear club", and are limited to what they can do...

  • -2

    hatsoff

    The people of Fukushima, and the rest of Japan have been living with nuclear power for all these years, and now something bad happens and they demand answers and solutions right now. They have been obliviously living their lives for 40 years with this problem on their doorstep.

    I've heard this type of thing before from Japanese in Fukushima, along the lines of: "We've benefitted from TEPCO's electricity for years so how can we complain now?" It doesn't wash, and it lets TEPCO off the hook undeservedly.

    The people of this country have had a contract with TEPCO for all these years: The people PAY for the electricity they use, which in turn pays the huge salaries of the executives who have overall responsibility for the NPPs. No problem with that. But in return, the people expect safety procedures to be observed. Didn't happen. The people have a right to be angry.

  • -3

    herefornow

    Fukushima is a complete stuff up and the Japanese system cannot handle it . No one can afford to evacuate the whole contaminated area, the government is not capable of overseeing proper monitoring of radiation levels in the area for the next 20 years, and the Japanese fisheries or agricultural unions are not going to put priority on people's health ahead of keeping the funds coming in

    Lunchbox -- may not agree with the entirety of your post, but no argument at all with the above. Solving this crisis properly would take an almost complete reversal of everything that has charcterized Japan for the last five decades or so -- largely inept political leadership; overly-powerful bureaucracies too closely aligned to business; and, an apathetic population devoted to the "religion" of Japan Inc. So while Spidapig24 and others may wish that all this will change, there is simply no foundation for it to. Japan's inward-focus is legendary, as explified by the education system, so most people do not truly understand that there is any option to the above. Hence the shoganai attitude. Which, by the way, Spidapig24 is exactly " So let's just throw up our hands in the air and say Oh well..." And that isn't going to change anytime in any of our lifetimes.

  • 0

    hatsoff

    I've just watched that video. Mmm, two choices: throw up my hands and say, well that's how society works, or be DAMNED ANGRY at the arrogance of these officials whose job it is to serve the people and look out for them in times of crisis. Otherwise, what the hell is a government for?

  • 0

    hoserfella

    Absolutely no use in getting angry with the gov't or TEPCO or even the IAEA. The only people who are going to affect change in this country are the Japanese people themselves. Unfortunately, they are as toothless and broken as that poor little man in smith's video. No real anger or outrage. Like most of the population, he was actually scared of upsetting that arrogant jackass because he was an OFFICIAL, and therefore in the protester's eyes, better than him. Until the Japanese stop treating these cockroaches in power as latter day Shoguns, get used to the cesium in your food, water, and god knows what else.

  • -2

    Relax_Am_Here

    I am shocked by that video. I always thought that Japanese authorities were different from most countries in the world, doing everything efficiently, with great care and precision. I also had an image of Japanese authorities caring very much about their people. Maybe the disaster was far beyond what they could imagine. I am not sure any other counrty would do better but at least the authorities have to listen to people and provide comfort to those who were hit the hardest by the nuclear disaster. Let's hope the necessary actions are taken as soon as possible by the authorities and there are no other alternatives. Nobody wants to see Japan sinking. Not me anyway.

  • -3

    warnerbro

    Since the fuel burned a hole through and leaked out of the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel, why does it matter that the temperature in the pressure vessel is lower than 100 degrees? Isn't the temperature of the fuel, which they don't know and have no way of measuring, more important?

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