Japan's crippled nuclear plant reaches stability

By the Associated Press | July 19, 2011 | 9:30 AM EDT

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says the crippled reactors at its tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant have reached stability more than four months ago after the disaster.

Trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda also says the plant operators are making steady progress to bring the reactors to a cold shutdown within six months.

Officials describing progress at the plant on Tuesday said radiation around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has decreased from peak levels.

Officials based their assessment on several milestones. Temperatures at the bottom of reactor pressure vessels are no longer climbing. A makeshift system to process contaminated water works properly after initial problems. And nitrogen injections are helping prevent more explosions.

The damage at the plant caused by the March 11 tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.