After vowing to take a more hands on approach to the clean up of Fukushima, the Japanese government has now pledged 47 billion yen (£0.3 bn) towards the effort.
The move follows a long series of embarrassing admissions from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) – the operator of the wrecked nuclear plant. Over the weekend the firm announced it had found radiation levels 18 times higher than previously measured outside a water storage tank.
The main concern of the Japanese government will be preventing further leaks of contaminated water used to cool melted fuel rods in the reactor.
Out of the total fund, 32 billion yen (£0.2 bn) will be spent creating a wall of frozen earth around the reactor – using pipes filled with coolant – to prevent groundwater coming into contact with the contaminated water used to cool the reactor. The remaining 15 billion yen (£0.1 bn) will go on an improved water treatment system to reduce radiation levels in the contaminated water used for cooling.
The full water management problem and the wider issue of decommissioning have yet to be addressed properly. The recent problems have led some to call for the Fukushima plant to be split off from Tepco’s other business and be placed under direct government control. It is still not clear who will ultimately foot the bill for the clean up.
Speaking at a news conference, Economics Minister Akira Amari reportedly said: “This is a matter of public safety so the country has to take the lead on this issue and respond as quickly as possible. Figuring out who to bill for the costs can come later.”