, TOKYO September 3- The Japanese government on Tuesday unveiled a $470 million plan to stem radioactive water leaks at Fukushima, including freezing the ground underneath the stricken nuclear plant, as it pledged to lead from the front.
Chiding operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) for its haphazard management of the spiralling problems, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his administration will spend 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.
“Discarding the current, impromptu response, we will set up our basic policies for a fundamental resolution of the contaminated water problem.
“The government will do its best and take the necessary fiscal action,” he said, referring to tapping taxpayer funds.
Tokyo’s move comes just days before a decision in Argentina by the International Olympic Committee on who should host the 2020 Games, with observers warning the situation at Fukushima could prove the undoing of Tokyo’s bid.
Thousands of tonnes of radioactive water is being stored in temporary tanks at the site, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of the Japanese capital, much of it having been used to cool molten reactors wrecked by the tsunami of March 2011.
The discovery of leaks from some of these tanks or from pipes feeding them, as well as radiation hotspots on the ground even where no water is evident, has created a growing headache for TEPCO.
Some of the highly toxic water that has escaped may have made its way into the Pacific Ocean, TEPCO has admitted.