Japan's prime minister today declared that the power plants at Fukushima, site of the worst nuclear distaster since Chernobyl, are finally 'stabilized' -- but that seems to be more of a technical designation than anything else. "The nuclear reactors have reached a state of cold shutdown and therefore we can now confirm that we have come to the end of the accident phase of the actual reactors," PM Yoshihiko Noda said in televised comments according to the BBC. The technical term for what's happened is a "cold shutdown," which "means a reactor’s cooling system operates below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, assumes that the reactors are intact," explains The New York Times. But despite the expected government optimism about the development -- one legislator actually drank some Fukushima puddle water in front of journalists last month -- most reports are more hesitant to paint the news as a final relief. The BBC quotes experts who say "the repairs made to the plant after the accident are makeshift and could break down without warning," and even the government acknowledge the plant still needs to be dismantled and that ground around it decontaminated. The Times focuses more on the human toll:
But for many of the people of Fukushima, the crisis is far from over. More than 160,000 people remain displaced, and even as the government lifts evacuation orders for some communities, many are refusing to return home.
“This does not ring true for us at all,” said Hirofumi Onuma, 52, deputy principal of a high school in Minamisoma, which was evacuated following the disaster. After a desperate clean-up effort, the school was declared safe and reopened at the end of October. Still, only 350 of 705 students have returned.
The obvious next step in the Fukushima cleanup: monkeys.