The Japanese government will get directly involved in containing rising levels of radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant instead of relying solely on the operator, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said.
Shortly after Abe's pledge on Wednesday, the government revealed that approximately 300 tonnes of contaminated water was leaking from the crippled nuclear reactors on a daily basis.
"The stability of Fukushima is also one of our tasks, notably the contaminated water problem is one that the Japanese people have a high level of interest in and is an urgent issue to deal with," Abe told a meeting of his ministers at a gathering to discuss the Fukushima crisis.
This is not an issue we can let Tepco take complete responsibility and we have to deal with this at the national level," he said.
Almost two and a half years after an earthquake and tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi station, the toxic water that has plagued the clean-up from the start now threatens to flood out of the plant's confines into the Pacific Ocean.
The Fukushima disaster is the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, and the delays in getting to grips with the clean-up have caused global concern.
The clean-up is expected to take more than 40 years and cost $11bn.
The Japanese leader stopped short of pledging funds to deal with the issue, but the ministry has requested a budget allocation to help address the water problem, an official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.
The Nikkei newspaper said the funds would be used to freeze the soil to prevent groundwater from leaking into the reactor buildings - a project with an estimated cost of up to $410m.
The government moves appear to be in response to warnings by industry experts questioning Tokyo Electric's ability to safely decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 220km northeast of Tokyo.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies