The Japanese government said on Friday that the country’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has reached ‘cold shutdown’, meaning that its reactors have stayed below boiling point for some time.
The plant was wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that crippled its cooling systems as well as triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks.
Ministers then evacuated some 80,000 residents within a 20-kilometre radius of the plant.
The cold shutdown milestone is important because it is one of the government’s pre-conditions before it can allow local residents to return home. But radiation levels remain too high in some areas for that to happen right away.
The nuclear accident has been called the world’s worst since Chernobyl 25 years ago. It could take up to four decades to fully decommission the plant and clean up surrounding areas.