Any decision to lift or shrink the no-entry zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will probably require months of careful study, according to a Cabinet minister.
In a speech Oct. 29 in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of handling the Fukushima nuclear accident, referred to the possibility of revising the 20-kilometer no-entry zone around the plant.
"We will be very careful," Hosono said. "We will take several months to prepare even after the completion of step two" of the road map to end the crisis at the nuclear plant.
The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has pledged to complete step two, in which the reactors at the Fukushima plant would reach a "cold shutdown" state, before the end of the year.
Hosono's statement indicates that any lifting or shrinking of the no-entry zone will not be done until after late February at the earliest.
Many issues must be addressed before the no-entry zone can be lifted, including decontaminating the area of radiation.
Even if the central government does declare the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant "under control," several months of preparations would be needed before residents can be allowed to return home.
Regarding the completion of step two of the road map, Hosono said in his speech, "We want to be able to make an announcement before the very end of the year."
Experts have said it would likely take 30 years to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima plant.
In that regard, Hosono said: "Tokyo Electric Power Co. will have to handle both compensation payments and decontamination, so the involvement of the central government will be unavoidable. We will have to discuss how the central government will become involved to move the process toward decommissioning the reactors."
Hosono indicated that government officials were considering writing a special law that would place the decommissioning work, including the removal of nuclear fuel rods from the reactors, under the jurisdiction of the central government.
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