Leaks stopped at Japan’s nuclear plant

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Japan’s Prime Minister yesterday announced the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant had reached a “cold shutdown” and was no longer leaking substantial amounts of radiation.

Yoshihiko Noda’s announcement marks a milestone nine months after the March 11 tsunami sent three reactors at the plant into meltdowns in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

But experts noted that the plant remains vulnerable to more problems and will take decades to decommission.

The crisis displaced about 100,000 people.

Officials are to start discussing allowing some residents to return to less contaminated areas

However, a 12-mile zone around the plant is nevertheless expected to remain mostly off-limits for years.

The announcement marks the end of the second phase of the government’s lengthy process to completely decommission the plant, which is expected to take 30 years or more.

This was a necessary step toward revising evacuation zones around the plant and focusing efforts from simply stabilising the facility to actually starting the arduous process of shutting it down.

A cold shutdown normally means a nuclear reactor’s coolant system is at atmospheric pressure and its reactor core is at a temperature below 100 degrees celsius, making it impossible for a chain reaction to take place.

n Radioactive metal has been found in the luggage of a passenger bound for Iran, Russian customs agents said yesterday.

Agents seized 18 pieces of metal at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went off.

The gauges showed that normal radiation levels were exceeded by 20 times. The pieces reportedly contained Sodium-22, a radioactive isotope that has medical uses.

Authorities said an investigation began within hours.