Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a visit to the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic station told Tokyo Electric Power Co. its priority is to halt leaks of radioactive water from the plant into the ocean.
He also urged the company to decommission the two remaining reactors at the site, following the four it wrote off in April 2012 due to damage from the earthquake and tsunami. Reactors 5 and 6 that Abe referred to were safely shut down during the disaster on March 11, 2011.
“Work toward a decision to decommission units 5 and 6 as soon as possible,” Abe said he told Tokyo Electric President Naomi Hirose, adding that he wants them shut down so the company can fully focus on tackling the disaster. The utility stated it would need to raise another 1 trillion yen ($10 billion) to do so and would make a decision by the end of the year, Abe said.
Abe’s second visit to the site since taking office in December follows his pledge early this month to put the government at the forefront of the disaster response. That’s the message he delivered to the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, where Tokyo won hosting rights for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“One of the main purposes of this visit was to see it for myself, after I made those remarks on how the contaminated water has been handled,” Abe said in Fukushima in reference to his comments in Buenos Aires. He said contaminated water leaks have been contained within the harbor cove by the plant. “In light of that, I will work hard to counter rumors questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant,” he said.
Abe toured the plant in a white tyvek protective suit with a label on his back saying “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe” in black. He wore a full-face mask and an orange helmet and was shown sites of water leaks by Hirose and the Fukushima plant chief, Akira Ono.
“The future of Japan is on your shoulders,” Abe told about a dozen workers at the control center. “The government will step forward and take concrete measures, I’m counting on you.”
Tepco, as the utility is known, is storing almost 400,000 metric tons of contaminated water in more than 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima plant, or enough to fill a very large crude-oil tanker. The water is part of a system installed by Tepco to cool melted fuel at the Fukushima plant’s reactors.
Tepco set up the Contaminated Water and Tank Countermeasures Headquarters last month after reporting a 300 ton leak at one of the tanks, which Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority designated as the worst accident since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the site.
The water tanks that leaked are bolted together and use a rubber sealant. Plant manager Ono said Tepco expects to replace the bolted models with stronger welded types by the end of the year.