The Japanese government is trying to reassure people it is on top of contaminated water leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, after an official at the Tokyo Electric Power Company said the situation is "not under control."
Friday's comments by TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita appeared to contradict Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assurances to the International Olympic Committee last week. Mr. Abe had described the leaks at Fukushima as under control when advocating for Tokyo's selection as host of the 2020 Olympic Games.
The government said Friday the TEPCO official was referring to individual incidents, but not to the situation as a whole.
Former U.S. nuclear regulator Lake Barrett, who is working as an outside adviser for TEPCO, also supported the prime minister's statement. He said the situation at the plant is under control "from a public health and safety and environmental protection point of view."
Japanese officials have acknowledged that radioactive ground water has been leaking from the Fukushima plant since it was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011, triggering a major nuclear disaster.
TEPCO has said the leaked water is emitting radiation levels considered harmful to humans.
Leaks have come from storage tanks holding water used to cool the reactors that melted down after the earthquake and tsunami shut off the plant's power and cooling systems.
It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in the Soviet Union. No one is reported to have died as a direct result of the Fukushima disaster, though tens of thousands are unable to return to their homes surrounding the facility.