NARAHA, Japan (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will take a firsthand look at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant on Thursday, aiming to quell public unease over radiation-contaminated water that is leaking from the complex into the Pacific.
During the three-hour plant tour Abe is to look at some of the 1,000 tanks containing radioactive water, water treatment equipment and a chemical dam being installed along the coast — steps meant to control the water leakage. He will also talk with workers, officials said.
"Today, I will enter the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Plant," Abe said in a comment posted on his official Facebook page. "I will do my utmost to protect people's health and the sea."
Abe's adamant reassurance to the International Olympic Committee earlier this month that the leaks are "under control" backfired at home, as many Japanese believe he was glossing over problems at the plant.
Japanese officials have acknowledged that the ground water contaminated with radioactive leaks have been seeping into the Pacific since soon after meltdowns and explosions following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
"The prime minister has expressed hopes to take a firsthand look at the plant himself, so he can come up with appropriate instructions," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.
The government has stepped up efforts to contain the leaks as the situation worsened under "haphazard" handlings by the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., Suga said.
Thursday's plant visit is Abe's second since taking office in December, when he made his first tour on a bus.
Hours before Tokyo was chosen on Sept. 7 to host the 2020 Olympics, Abe gave a speech declaring that radioactive contaminants from the leakage had no impact on sea water outside the bay near the plant. Tokyo was not at risk, he insisted.
In a meeting with opposition Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers last week, senior TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita said the water situation was "not under control," appearing to contradict Abe. DPJ leaders said they will demand that Abe explain his remarks to the IOC.
TEPCO said in a statement that Yamashita was referring to isolated incidents and had not contradicted Abe's comments.
The most heavily radiated water pools inside the reactor and turbine basements, where waste cooling water leaked out of melted reactors has gathered, have mixed with groundwater seeping through cracks in the damaged buildings, generating 800 tons of contaminated water per day.