Japan PM Abe demands end to Fukushima leaks

Japan PM Abe demands end to Fukushima leaks
Police officers in radiation protection suits bow their heads to offer prayers in silence for tsunami victims in Namie, near the striken TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture on March 11, 2013. A magnitude 5.3 earthquake rocked Japan's Fukushima prefecture early Friday morning, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, Japan, Sept 19, 2013 - Japan's prime minister told Fukushima's operator to fix radioactive water leaks as he toured the crippled nuclear plant Thursday, less than two weeks after assuring the world the situation was under control.

Shinzo Abe also said he stood by assertions he made at a meeting of Olympic chiefs that the effect of contaminated water was contained.

Those reassurances, given at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires, were seen as key to Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Thursday's visit came as it emerged that just months after the March 2011 disaster, authorities allowed operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to shelve costly plans to deal with groundwater over fears it would push the massive utility into bankruptcy.

Hundreds of tonnes of groundwater are becoming contaminated daily as they mix with highly polluted water used to cool the broken reactors. The water then flows out to sea.

Hours after the visit, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake rocked the Fukushima prefecture early Friday, just 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of the plant. No tsunami warning was issued and TEPCO said in a statement to Kyodo news agency that no abnormalities in radiation or equipment were observed at the plant after the quake, which struck at a depth of 22 kilometres at 02:25 am (1725 GMT).

Abe wore a full face mask and an orange helmet for the tour, along with a white Tyvek protective suit that had the words "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" emblazoned on the back in black. He was escorted around the site by TEPCO executives, including president Naomi Hirose.

The visit is part of a campaign aimed at reassuring the world about the state of the plant, more than two-and-a-half years after it was battered by a huge tsunami.

Speaking to Olympic chiefs in Buenos Aires just ahead of a decision to award the Games to Tokyo, Abe said of the plant: "Let me assure you, the situation is under control."

But some critics and experts say Abe's gloss on the disaster is bordering on the dishonest - a senior TEPCO executive flatly contradicted the PM earlier this month.

"I think the current situation is that it is not under control," he told opposition lawmakers.

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