What next for Japan?
Japan's Fukushima nuclear power has at last been stabilised, Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has declared.
The six reactor Fukushima Daiichi plant's vital cooling systems were knocked out during the earthquake and tsunami in March, resulting in radiation leaks which forced the local population to evacuate.
As a result, the Japanese Government imposed a 20km exclusion zone, which still remains for about 80,000 people. However, the prime minister told a news conference that workers at the plant, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), had now stabilised the reactors and could now move onto decommissioning it.
Speaking to cabinet ministers last Friday (December 16), Mr Yoshihiko said the plant's reactors had reached a state of "cold shutdown", and could therefore be decommissioned.
Sea water was used to cool the reactors however this resulted in a build-up of wastewater, with some of the contaminated liquid flowing back into the sea €" raising concern that damage has been caused to marine life.
Despite stabilisation of the reactors the decommissioning process could take several decades to complete, leaving the Government with the dilemma of whether to continue its reliance on nuclear energy, or seek alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar or tidal as public opposition to nuclear grows.
It also leaves thousands of people homeless, with no prospect of returning home €" although many are still forced to pay for mortgages on their deconstructed homes, but that's another issue altogether.
Speaking to Japanese friends from the Tokyo and Fukushima areas it is clear great uncertainty remains among the Japanese population, as the long-term health of those directly caught up in the disaster is unknown. Additionally, concern over the safety of food and drink remains high €" even for those not in the danger zones as contamination has been recorded in beef, fish, rice and vegetables grown in the region. People with young children also remain wary about letting them play outside even as far afield as Tokyo.
It also appears faith in the Japanese Government is at an all time low, indeed during my two year stint living in the country from 2007 to 2009 I saw the resignation of no less than two prime ministers. Current PM Mr Yoshihiko is right in more ways than one when he says "the battle is not yet over".
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