By Mari Yamaguchi | Associated Press
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the operator of the country’s crippled nuclear power plant on Thursday to scrap all six reactors at the site instead of just four already slated for decommissioning and to concentrate on tackling pressing issues like leaks of radioactive water.
After taking a firsthand look at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, however, Abe insisted that radioactive water had been contained at the complex and said he would fend off "rumors" regarding Fukushima’s safety.
Following a three-hour tour of the plant, Abe instructed its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to decommission the No. 5 and 6 reactors, which survived the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The disaster caused three other reactors to melt and damaged a fuel cooling pool at another. TEPCO has been unsure about what to do with the two surviving reactors, leading some to believe that it may be hanging on to hopes of resuming their operation.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, is briefed during inspection tour of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
"I told (TEPCO) to ensure decommissioning of reactors No. 5 and 6 so that they can concentrate more on dealing with the accident," Abe told workers and reporters as he wrapped up the tour at the plant’s emergency command center.
TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told Abe that a decision on the reactors would be made by the end of the year, the prime minister said.
Abe said he urged TEPCO to ensure it has enough funding on hand to take care of urgent work needed to clear the way for the plant’s decommissioning, and that Hirose promised to obtain 1 trillion yen ($10 billion) in addition to a similar amount it has already set aside.
Decommissioning multiple melted reactors is an unprecedented challenge, and experts say Fukushima’s cleanup will be far more difficult than after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the United States in 1979.
The prime minister said he stood by the reassurance about Tokyo’s safety that he gave to the International Olympic Committee before the city of 35 million was awarded the right to host the 2020 summer games earlier this month.
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