Safe closing of Fukushima Daiichi to take over 30 years

A Japanese government panel says it would take at least 30 years to safely close the tsunami-hobbled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, even as the facility continues to leak radioactivity, though at a reduced rate than earlier and is believed to be more stable.

In March, the plant was hit by a tsunami and earthquakes, in the worst accident since Chernobyl in 1986, which led to meltdowns and explosions that released radioactive material. Tens of thousands of people had to flee the area.

Though the plant, around 150 miles to the northeast of Tokyo, is now relatively stable, according to an expert panel named by Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, it is likely to take 30 years or more to safely decommission it. The panel's projections are contained in the draft of a report to be completed by the end of the year. The draft has been posted on the commission's website.

Meanwhile, plant workers continue to struggle to contain radiation leakage from the plant, although the amount is far less than before.

According to the panel, it took 10 years for the removal of nuclear fuel after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the US, and suggested that the process at Fukushima would be much more complicated and long drawn.

The process would also be more expensive and according to a report Saturday in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri, which said independent experts have pegged the costs at more than 1.5 trillion.