Abe urges TEPCO to scrap 2 Fukushima reactors that avoided meltdowns
OKUMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that he urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. to scrap two reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that avoided meltdowns during the 2011 nuclear accident.
Of the plant's six reactors, the utility is moving ahead to decommission the Nos. 1 to 4 units that suffered meltdowns or hydrogen explosions in the early days of the crisis, but it has not made clear what it will do with the remaining Nos. 5 and 6 reactors that managed to achieve a stable condition called a cold shutdown.
Abe made the request during his visit on Thursday to the Fukushima plant, which continues to be plagued with radioactive water leaks and other problems more than two years since it was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
"I want a decision to be reached on the scrapping of the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors so that TEPCO focuses on accident response matters," Abe told reporters.
It was Abe's first visit to the plant in Fukushima Prefecture since a trip last December shortly after he took office. The inspection is designed to demonstrate his desire to take the lead in handling the crisis, officials said.
TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told Abe that he will decide the fate of the two reactors by the end of this year, while also vowing to clean up by the end of March 2015 the massive amount of radioactive water accumulating at the plant, according to the prime minister.
Contaminated water has been increasing daily as a result of continuing water injections into the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors that suffered meltdowns, posing a risk of leaks.
Amid growing concerns over the handling of the toxic water, Abe has said the government will play a major role in tackling the issue, including budgetary spending on necessary measures, and will not leave the issue to TEPCO alone.
He is apparently hoping to show the government is actively involved in handling the crisis especially after Tokyo recently won the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The capital is some 250 kilometers southwest of the plant.
In a presentation as part of the capital's bid before the International Olympic Committee earlier this month, Abe said of the toxic water problem that "the situation is under control" and offered assurances that there "will never be health problems."
But the remark raised the eyebrows of critics, who consider the government has been slow in handling the problem.
Hit by a magnitude 9.0-earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima nuclear complex lost nearly all its power sources and consequently the ability to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools at the Nos. 1 to 4 units.
The Nos. 4 to 6 reactors were under maintenance at the time of the earthquake. The Nos. 5 and 6 reactors achieved a state of cold shutdown, helped by an emergency diesel generator that escaped being flooded.
September 19, 2013(Mainichi Japan)