The crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant will be stabilized to a condition known as "cold shutdown" in about six to nine months, Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant said Sunday.
HTML clipboard Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (TEPCO) Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata attends a news conference at the company head office in Tokyo April 17, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
The company's chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata announced the utility's schedule "for the moment" for bringing the complex in Fukushima Prefecture under control at a news conference in Tokyo.
Restoring stable cooling to the reactors and spent fuel pools will take about three months, he said, meaning it needs three months to achieve "steady reduction" in radiation.
Then, the utility will need an additional three to six months to control radioactive emissions and curb radiation substantially.
Preventing hydrogen explosions at the No. 1 to 3 reactors and emission of water contaminated with high-level radiation from the No. 2 reactor are the top two challenges for the operator to achieve its goal, the utility said.
Katsumata also revealed he is considering to step down from his post to take the blame.
After TEPCO revealed its roadmap to bring the nuclear plants under control, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan commented that it was "a small step forward" towards ending the crisis.
At a separate press conference, industry minister Banri Kaieda urged TEPCO to follow the just-announced restoration roadmap swiftly and steadily.
Kaieda also admitted it is difficult for evacuees to return to their homes within the next three months designated by Tokyo Electric.
After the utility successfully brings the release of radioactive materials under control, the government would review evacuation areas and would also like to announce whether some of the evacuees will be able to return home, Kaieda said.
The government's Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency has raised the severity level of the crisis from level 5 to the maximum level 7 on an international scale, recognizing that it matches the world 's worst nuclear catastrophe in 1986 at Chernobyl.
The nuclear plant has been crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, causing radioactive materials to be emitted into the environment.