Japanese PM gears up for long-term battle to overcome nuclear crisis

08:18, April 02, 2011      

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Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo April 1, 2011. Japan's prime minister said on Friday he was ready for a long battle to bring the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant under control. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Friday that he would do everything in his power to ensure Japan to overcome the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Speaking at a nationally televised news conference three weeks after the massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami battered coastal regions in northeastern Japan, the prime minister said that the fight to bring the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture under control would be a long one but he remained convinced that the nation would pull through.

"I am prepared for a long-term battle over the Fukushima nuclear plant and to win this battle," the prime minister said.

"We cannot say that the plant has been sufficiently stabilized, but we are preparing for all kinds of situations and I am convinced that the plant can be stabilized," Kan said.

Kan played down the potential health risks caused by the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, whose critical cooling systems failed after being pounded by a massive tsunami, and said that "as long as government advisories were adhered to, people's health wouldn't be compromised."

"In Japan, we ask people to follow the rules because if they do, there will be no damage to their health," Kan said.

The prime minister also said that the government would decide whether to expand the evacuation zone from 20-km around the volatile facility based on the advise from nuclear experts.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) urged Japan to widen the evacuation zone around the stricken plant and evacuate people out of the village of Iitate, 40 km northwest of the facility, on concerns of elevated levels of radiation found in air, soil and sea samples in the area.

But Kan said that evacuation advice from its own nuclear safety agency as well as global watchdogs was being heeded.

"Japan decides on the area of evacuation around the plant based on experts' advice and proposals," the prime minister said.

Kan's comments came despite the government's Nuclear and Industry safety Agency saying that radioactive water may be freely flowing into the Pacific Ocean through drainage systems and supply trenches.

On the future of the beleaguered utility firm, and amid rumors of nationalization, Kan said that he wanted Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to redouble its efforts as a private entity, but added that ultimately the government would take responsibility for the massive compensation claims facing the company that threaten to bankrupt it.

"If it exceeds TEPCO's capabilities the government must deal with the issue responsibly," he said.

But while Kan said that an extra budget would be compiled to deal with the monumental affects of the disaster and some state- projects for this fiscal year have already been suspended. He failed to mention exactly where the cash-strapped government would find the emergency allocation from.

According to Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano, the total cost of the disaster would range between 191 to 298 billion U.S. dollars and as the government struggles with a budget deficit equal to nearly 50 percent of the government's pre-quake budget, economists fear the government may struggle in its ability to issue further debt to effectively deal with Japan's worst crisis since WWII.

Source: Xinhua
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