Japan minister at Fukushima after radioactive leak

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A handout photo taken by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on August 23 shows nuclear watchdog members, including Nuclear Regulation Authority members in radiation protection suits, inspecting contaminated water tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. AFP PHOTO

TOKYO: Japan’s government was ramping up pressure on electric utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) after a huge leak of radioactive water at Fukushima, with a ministerial visit to the wrecked nuclear site on Monday.

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The trip by Toshimitsu Motegi, whose ministry supervises the atomic energy industry, comes amid growing calls for the government to take a greater role in the cleanup at the plant.

Critics accuse Tepco of being incapable of dealing with the vast—and growing—volumes of radioactive water at the site.

Motegi arrived at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Monday afternoon for an on-site inspection, a Tepco spokesman said.

His second visit to the plant—the first was in January—comes after Tepco revealed around 300 tons of highly radioactive water escaped from one of the hundreds of tanks storing liquid used to cool the broken reactors.

The episode was dubbed the most serious since the plant went into meltdown in 2011 after being hit by a quake and tsunami.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in early August described as “urgent” the battle to stop contaminated water escaping into the ocean.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo that Abe had ordered the industry minister to take “every possible measure,” including the use of reserve funds from the national budget.

“The leak of contaminated water from the tank was extremely regrettable,” Suga told a news conference.

“Failing to manage tanks properly is a big problem. As a government, we will do whatever we can do to resolve the problem,” Suga said.

Inspectors from Japan’s nuclear watchdog who toured the plant Friday declared water storage at the site was “sloppy.”

Tepco said on Saturday the tank that sprang a leak was one of three to have been relocated from its original spot because of subsidence.

The utility has not yet pinpointed the reason for the problem with the first tank but at the weekend began emptying the other tanks that were moved with it in 2011.

AFP

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