A blueprint for ending radiation leaks and stabilizing reactors at Japan's crippled nuclear plant drew a lackluster response Monday, as polls showed diminishing public support for the government's handling of the country's recent disasters.
The plan issued by Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the weekend, in response to a government order, is meant to be a first step toward letting some of the tens of thousands of evacuees from near the company's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant return to their homes.
Those forced to flee due to radiation leaks after a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the plant's power and cooling systems are frustrated that their exile will not end soon. And officials acknowledge that unforeseen complications, or even another natural disaster, could set that timetable back even further. Pressure has been building on the government and TEPCO to resolve Japan's worst-ever nuclear power accident, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan is facing calls for his resignation.
A majority of those surveyed in the polls by the Mainichi, Nihon Keizai and Asahi newspapers expressed support, though, for tax increases to pay for reconstruction of areas devastated by the tsunami.
Goshi Hosono, an adviser to the prime minister and member of his nuclear crisis management task force, said the government would closely monitor TEPCO's implementation of its crisis plan and hoped it could be carried out ahead of schedule.
The timetable's first step focuses on cooling the reactors and spent fuel pools, reducing radiation leaks and decontaminating water that has become radioactive, within three months. The second step, for within six to nine months, is to bring the release of radioactive materials fully under control, achieve a cold shutdown of the reactors and cover the buildings, possibly with a form of industrial cloth.
Nuclear safety officials described the plan as ''realistic,'' but acknowledged there could be setbacks.
The unveiling of the roadmap came two days after TEPCO – also under pressure from Kan's government – announced plans to give 1 million yen ($12,000) in initial compensation to each evacuated household, with much more expected later.