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Shinzo Abe, Japan's new PM, visits Fukushima nuclear plant

Shinzo Abe praised the workers dismantling the plant, which was damaged during last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

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After his sweeping election victory, incoming Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said this week that there can be no compromise on the sovereignty of the Senkaku islands. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Shinzo Abe, Japan's new prime minister, visited Fukushima nuclear plant Saturday, where he praised the workers dismantling the damaged facility. 

“Your courage is what brings hope to Japan,” Abe told workers at his first visit to the center since taking office last week. “Yet, we still face a great challenge — an unprecedented challenge in human history to working towards decommissioning the plant in such scale.”

All 50 of Japan's nuclear reactors was shut down for inspections after the March 2011 tsunami drowned Fukushima's cooling systems, causing a meltdown that spread radiation throughout the area and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate, Agence France Presse reported

Abe's visit to Fukushima aimed to "show the public that his administration is serious about speeding up decontamination and reconstruction work while it tackles a host of other pressing issues," his aides told the Japan Times

His tour of the plant comes a year after experts claimed the damage had been brought under control, Bangkok Post reported. But melted fuel remains, and it is now estimated that the full shut-down and clean-up of the plant will take decades.

The prime minister's pro-business Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition agreement with New Komeito features a plan to reduce Japan's dependence nuclear energy, but it is still unclear how that will play out, Asahi Shimbun reported.

Only two of the 50 reactors in Japan are currently functioning; the rest remain shuttered as Abe says his party will study the best energy mix for the country over the next 10 years, according to the Associated Press

Before the tsunami and earthquake, nuclear energy was responsible for powering for almost one-third of Japan's energy supplies, BBC News reported

More from GlobalPost: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was 'man-made'

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/121229/shinzo-abe-visits-fukushima-nuclear-plant-japan