Japan's new prime minister has offered his thanks to emergency workers and military forces during a tour of areas around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant Thursday.
Yoshihiko Noda, who was sworn in last week, donned blue protective gear for his visit to the plant, which has been leaking radiation since the nation's devastating earthquake and tsunami six months ago.
Earlier, he visited the makeshift base camp for workers and troops who are struggling to safely shut down three of the plant's six reactors where core meltdowns occurred.
"I would like to offer you my heartfelt thanks as head of this nation, as prime minister, for the self-sacrifice and devotion you have shown in working tirelessly and in such harsh conditions to bring an end to the [nuclear] accident,'' said Noda.
He told the soldiers that as commander in chief of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, he is very proud of their efforts.
Noda also toured the large evacuation zone around the plant, parts of which are expected to be uninhabitable for years. His agenda included talks with Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato about a plan to build a temporary storage facility for radioactive waste in the prefecture.
Public anger over the government's handling of the nuclear disaster helped force the resignation of Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan. Noda, the former finance minister, was chosen to succeed him in a vote by legislators from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.