U.N. Atomic Watchdog Head Lauds Fukushima Cleanup
Author: Yoko Kubota
Cleanup work at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant is proceeding smoothly and the prospects are good for bringing it under control, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said Monday after a visit to the crisis-hit plant.
Japan said last week that it was on track with efforts to take control of the Fukushima nuclear plant, more than four months after it was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns and radiation leaks, but cautioned that a final clean-up of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl would take many years.
"Looking at the site, work is moving very smoothly," said Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"So many people are working with passion, so I felt that the outlook is bright," the veteran diplomat was shown on public broadcaster NHK as telling reporters.
Amano's comments were in line with a statement released on Friday, when he said significant progress had been made in efforts to contain Japan's atomic crisis.
The government and Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the Fukushima plant, have so far met the July target of stably reducing radiation but officials have said it could take more than 10 years to decommission the reactors, whose troubles have heightened public safety concerns over nuclear power.
More than two-thirds of Japanese support Prime Minister Naoto Kan's call for the country to wean itself from nuclear power, a Kyodo news agency poll showed Sunday.
Only 16 reactors are operating in Japan out of 54 that had been available for power generation before the March disaster, as public concerns over safety have prevented utilities from restarting reactors taken offline for routine maintenance, sparking worries about power shortages that could hit Japan's frail economy.
Amano is expected to meet Kan, as well as Trade And Industry Minister Banri Kaieda, who oversees energy policy, and Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono during his stay in Japan until Saturday.
(Editing by Edmund Klamann)