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Japan Gov't to Help with Nuke Plant Toxic Water Leaks

The Japanese government is stepping up its efforts to help the operators of the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant deal with dangerous leaks of contaminated water.

A government spokesman says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will instruct his government to take a bigger role in helping the Tokyo Electric Power Company deal with the problem, which has threatened to become an emergency.

Workers are struggling to keep radioactive water from seeping out of specially built underground containers into the ocean. TEPCO has already admitted that some of the water, used to cool the plant's damaged reactors, has leaked outside the plant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that dealing with the buildup of toxic water at the plant is a very serious and complex issue.

"Creating a barrier on such a large scale to stop a leak has never before been seen anywhere in the world, so the Japanese government believes it is essential the country steps forward to support its construction to make sure it is eventually completed."

There have been growing concerns about TEPCO's ability to handle the situation. Rianne Teule, a nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace International, tells VOA the issue is a serious environmental concern.

"Most of all it proves TEPCO is incapable of dealing with this situation and that the Japanese authorities should really step in and ensure that proper action is taken to stop the leaks."

TEPCO said recently that between 20 to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium is estimated to have leaked into the ocean since the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. It is the first time the company has acknowledged that contaminated water is leaking into the sea.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 shut off the plant's power and cooling systems, causing a meltdown in three nuclear reactors. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in the Soviet Union.

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