The operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has said it will invite foreign decommissioning experts to advise it on how to deal with highly radioactive water leaking from the site.
The announcement by Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, on Monday came as Japan hinted that it may use part of a $3.6bn emergency reserve fund to help pay for the clean-up.
Visiting the plant, crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, Toshimitsu Motegi, the trade and industry minister, said on Monday he would set up a taskforce to take charge of the clean-up, and send officials to Fukushima to oversee operations.
"I strongly feel that the government should get fully involved," he said after touring the Fukushima Daiichi facility, which is 220km north of Tokyo.
Motegi ordered Tepco to replace storage tanks that are at risk of leaking radioactive water.
Tepco acknowledged last week that hundreds of tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of around 350 tanks that were assembled quickly after the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the site.
The tanks are used to store water pumped through the reactors to keep fuel in the melted cores from overheating.
Motegi said Tepco should have more frequent patrols around the tanks and better documentation of inspections.
He said the utility should replace weaker bolted tanks with sturdier welded storage units.
Group of experts
Tepco said it was setting up its own group of experts to oversee toxic water and storage tanks at the Fukushima site.
"For measures that require sophisticated technology, we will appropriately implement them as the government while collaborating with authorities on fiscal measures, including the use of a reserve fund," Motegi said.
Earlier on Monday, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said the situation at Fukushima was "deplorable", and signalled the government could use some of the $3.6bn set aside in this year's budget as a reserve for natural disasters and other emergencies.
Fumio Kishida, foreign minister, on Sunday visited Chernobyl in Ukraine, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, and said he hoped to apply lessons learned there to Fukushima.
"I directly saw that the battle to contain the accident still continues 27 years after the disaster," Kyodo news agency quoted Kishida as saying.
"Ukraine's experience and knowledge serve as a useful reference for workers coping with the Fukushima nuclear crisis."