Japan to spend $500m on water leaks at Fukushima
People walk out of the sea on Toyoma Beach, some 50 kilometres south of the Fukushima plant, on August 24, 2013. Japan is to spend up to $500 million to halt leaks at the plant from seeping into the Pacific.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will gather members of his nuclear disaster response team to decide on the government response to stop toxic waste leaking into the Pacific ocean from the crippled plant, officials said.
The action plan, worth 50 billion yen ($500 million), includes a scheme to freeze soil around reactor buildings to stop groundwater from entering, Jiji Press said.
Water from nearby hillsides has been flowing under the plant and mixing with polluted water that has already seeped into the ground, resulting in mildly radioactive water reaching the sea.
Scientists want to circulate a special refrigerant through pipes in the soil to create a "frozen wall" that will stem the inflow of groundwater, Jiji and other news reports said.
The government will also finance a project to upgrade nuclear decontamination systems at Fukushima, media said.
Of the planned spending, 21 billion yen is expected to be covered by contingency funds in the current fiscal year's budget.
It was not immediately clear where the rest of the money would come from.
At a meeting of party lawmakers on Monday, Abe said: "The nation will stand at the forefront and carry out necessary measures without leaving the contamination water problems to TEPCO."
"It is necessary to take radical measures, not a haphazard response," he said.
Operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) has long struggled to deal with the huge amounts of water used to cool reactors that went into meltdown after being struck by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Japan's nuclear watchdog said on Monday that ultimately some radioactive water would have to be released into the sea because it could not be stored in temporary tanks at Fukushima permanently.
Neighbouring countries and local fishermen have expressed concern at the mooted release from the plant, where contaminated water has already escaped into sea.
The clean-up at the plant has been hit by a series of mishaps that have cast doubt on the utility's ability to contain the world's worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
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