Journalists wearing full protective clothing have been allowed to enter the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan on Saturday, for the first time since the country was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami.
During the tour, journalists took pictures inside the damaged plant.(photo, from lefigaro.fr)
On the tour journalists saw “twisted and overturned trucks, crumbling reactor buildings and piles of rubble virtually untouched since the wave struck”, said a reporter from the Associated Press.
For months journalists requests to visit the plant have been rejected by the authorities, who claimed that the radiation levels on the grounds were too high. They also said that it could hamper operations to tackle the crisis.
However the authorities organised this tour on Saturday in order to show that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant is progressively becoming more stable.
When they arrived on Friday, the reporters were first shown a nearby football-training complex which became a base for the clean-up operation.
And the following day they boarded two bus in which they were shown around the Fukushima site itself.
‘Live without fear’
On the tour journalists were accompanied by the minister in charge of the clean-up operation, Goshi Hosono, and Masao Yoshida, the head of the Fukushima plant.
Mr Yoshida described the dreadful conditions at Fukushima after the tsunami.
“In the first week immediately after the accident I thought a few times, I’m going to die,” he said.
But he added that the situation is much better now.
“I believe the plant is stabilised to the level that residents in surrounding communities can live without fear.”
“But it’s still very tough conditions for the recovery workers inside the complex,” he added.
In a speech to workers at the plant, Mr Hosono praised them for the progress being made.
“Every time I come back, I feel conditions have improved. This is due to your hard work,” he said.
The tsunami badly damaged four of the six reactors at Fukushima.
The containment structures of reactors one, two and three were damaged after the nuclear fuel rods melted down because the tsunami impaired their cooling systems.
And a build-up of hydrogen gas caused several explosions.
The workers’ main task at the plant remains to complete the process of stabilising these reactors.
However in the meantime the authorities have been trying to deal with the accumulation of highly contaminated waste water in the reactor buildings.
Much of the countryside around the plant is sealed-off because large quantities of radioactive material have leaked after the earthquake and the tsunami.
Although the authorities hope to complete a “cold shutdown” of the damaged reactors by the end of 2011, a thorough decommission of the plant could take decades.