Japan's prime minister said that the Fukushima nuclear power plant crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March is on schedule to be stabilized by the end of the year.
"Temperatures of the three melted reactor cores have fallen below the boiling point and radiation leaks have significantly subsided, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said.
"Those are the two key conditions to achieve what Japanese nuclear officials call "cold shutdown conditions," a milestone in the effort to stabilize and eventually close the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant altogether.
"'We're about ready to draw a conclusion,' Noda told a news conference Friday, marking the end of the current parliamentary session."
The Mainichi Daily News reports that an official decision about whether the plant is stable will be taken at a Dec. 16 meeting. Basically, reports the Daily News, the government has been struggling to bring down the reactor temperatures enough so they don't boil water.
But as the AP reports, that's not as easy as it sounds, because as nuclear fuel melted, it moved, "so its condition and locations are little known."
The Daily News reports that once the plant is declared stable, the government will begin to review the mandatory evacuations and "compile a medium- to long-term road map toward decommissioning the plant, while envisaging the removal of spent nuclear fuel rods left in the pools for the reactors, possibly within two years."