3 Sep 2013

Japanese govt to bail out Fukushima plant

11:40 pm on 3 September 2013

The Japanese government has unveiled a half-billion-dollar plan to stem radioactive water leaks at Fukushima by creating a wall of ice underneath the stricken plant.

Acknowledging global concerns over the "haphazard" management of the crisis by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday his administration would step in with public money to get the job done.

"The government needs to resolve the problem by standing at the forefront," he told a meeting of his nuclear disaster response team, reports AFP.

The intervention comes just days before a decision in Argentina by the International Olympic Committee on who should host the 2020 Games. Observers warn the situation at Fukushima could prove the undoing of Tokyo's bid.

Thousands of tonnes of radioactive water are being stored in temporary tanks at the site, 220km north of the Japanese capital, much of it having been used to cool molten reactors wrecked by the 2011 tsunami.

The discovery of leaks from some of the tanks or pipes feeding them, as well as radiation hotspots on the ground even where no water is evident, has created a growing sense of crisis.

TEPCO says up to 300 tonnes of mildly radioactive groundwater is making its way into the sea every day.

Under the 47 billion yen scheme, scientists will freeze the soil around the stricken reactors to form an impenetrable wall.

This will entail burying pipes and passing refrigerant through them. Officials estimate the project will cost around 32 billion yen.

The government hopes the ice wall will be operational by March 2015.

A further 15 billion yen will be spent on equipment to remove radiation from water currently being stored.