Abe visits Fukushima nuclear plant amid toxic water problem

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Thursday in northeastern Japan to inspect efforts to contain the leaks of radioactive water accumulating on the premises amid global concerns about the problem.

It was Abe's first visit to the plant in Fukushima Prefecture since a trip last December shortly after he took office. The inspection is designed to demonstrate his desire to take the lead in handling the crisis, officials said.

Clad in protective gear, the premier is expected to view the area where leaks of toxic water have been confirmed. He will also hear explanations from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which has been struggling to deal with the problem.

The contaminated water has been increasing daily as a result of continuing water injections into the three reactors that suffered meltdowns in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Abe has said the government will play a major role in tackling the problem, including budgetary spending on necessary measures, and will not leave the issue to Tokyo Electric alone.

He is apparently hoping to show the government is actively involved in handling the crisis especially after Tokyo recently won the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The capital is some 250 kilometers southwest of the plant.

In a presentation as part of the capital's bid before the International Olympic Committee earlier this month, Abe said of the toxic water problem that "the situation is under control" and offered assurances that there "will never be health problems."

But the remark raised the eyebrows of critics, who consider the government has been slow in handling the problem.