The operators of Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are implementing a nine month roadmap, ensuring the crisis will be resolved by the end of 2011.
Fresh concerns were raised last week when, on Friday, levels of radiation in the sea near reactor 2 were measured to be 6,500 times the legal limit, an increase on 1,100 times the day before. Emergency workers are still unable to enter the plant.
Tens of thousands of families have been evacuated after last month's earthquake and tsunami that caused crippling damage to the plant. The Japanese government put pressure on TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Co responsible for operating the plant, ordering them to come up with a timetable to solve the crisis
At a press conference last weekend, TEPCO's chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata apologised to all those affected and reiterated his message that they are ''doing our utmost to prevent the crisis from further worsening.''
The roadmap estimates stopping radiation leaks within three months. The reactor then needs to be cooled, which is estimated at taking anywhere between three and six months, what is known as a ''cold shutdown''. Tepco will then cover the building and focus on cleaning up any contaminated soil and removing nuclear fuel, meaning evacuated families can return
The economic impact of the disaster, which killed 14,000 and has left 14,000 missing, is just beginning to be felt. Toyota has announced reduced production at its plants in North America, China and the UK because of a reduction in parts. The world's biggest carmaker has announced its plant in Derbyshire will close two days a week from May. Production in North America is being reduced by 70% from 26 April until the beginning of June.
Meanwhile the country received a boost after US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reiterated ongoing support from her country to Japan. America's existing support has included ships, aircraft and troops to help stricken communities, renewing the admiration and mutual respect between the two nations. Clinton met with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kanand Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto before taking tea at the Imperial Palace with Emperor Akihito, considered a great honour.