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Asia-Pacific

Fukushima crisis under control within nine months, says Tepco

media Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and US Secretary of State Hillary … Reuters/Saul Loeb

The operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant hopes to have the crisis there under control within nine months, according to a timeline released by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) on Sunday. Meanwhile in Tokyo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged full American support to help Japan recover from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

Tepco said it aims to start reducing radiation leaks from the Fukushima plant within three months, and to reach “cold shutdown” of the reactors within six to nine months. That involves cooling the reactors to a stable temperature and significantly reducing radiation leaks.

The timeline is provisional and might not proceed as planned, stressed Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata. The Japanese government plans to review the evacuation zone around Fukushima in six to nine months, according to Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda, who urged Tepco to stick to the schedule or even get ahead of it.

The priority now is to prevent further hydrogen explosions in the reactors by injecting nitrogen, and stopping radioactive water reaching the Pacific Ocean.

On Sunday Tepco plans to send two remote-controlled robots into one of the reactor buildings to measure temperature and radiation levels.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton was in Tokyo on Sunday to show US support for Japan. Speaking before meetings with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Emperor Akhito, the secretary of state said she was confident Japan would emerge stronger from the crisis, and the US would do everything it could to help it.

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