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IAEA: Japan nuke cleanup may take more than 40 years

TOKYO (AP) — A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant and urged its operator to improve plant stability.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, said Monday that damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is so complex that it is impossible to predict how long the cleanup may last.
“As for the duration of the decommissioning project, this is something that you can define in your plans. But in my view, it will be nearly impossible to ensure the time for decommissioning such a complex facility in less than 30-40 years as it is currently established in the roadmap,” Lentijo said.
The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. have predicted the cleanup would take up to 40 years. They still have to develop technology and equipment that can operate under fatally high radiation levels to locate and remove melted fuel. The reactors must be kept cool and the plant must stay safe and stable, and those efforts to ensure safety could slow the process down.
“You have to adopt a very cautious position to ensure that you always are working on the safe side,” Lentijo said.
The plant still runs on makeshift equipment and frequently suffers glitches.
Just over the past few weeks, the plant suffered nearly a dozen problems ranging from extensive power outages and leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools. On Monday, TEPCO had to stop the cooling system for one of the fuel storage pools for safety checks after finding two dead rats inside a transformer box.

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