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Japan pledges funds to help with Fukushima cleanup

Japan has said it will pledge $473 million to contain leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima plant. The government has vowed to take the lead in the cleanup, the worst atomic disaster since 1986.

The Japanese government plans to spend 47 billion yen ($473.05 million) to deal with the growing amounts of radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima plant, the country's Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday.

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Fukushima leaks to be stemmed by an ice wall

Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, has struggled to deal with the huge amounts of water used to cool the reactors that went into meltdown after being struck by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The government said it will spend 32 billion yen building a wall of frozen earth around the damaged reactors in order to prevent groundwater from mixing with water being used to cool melted fuel rods, Motegi told reporters.

The rest of the 15-billion-yen fund will be spent on upgrading water treatment systems to reduce the amount of contaminated water that is building up at the site.

Of the planned spending, 21 billion yen will be covered by contingency funds in the current fiscal year's budget, Motegi said.

Spike in radiation levels

Mass amounts of water are needed to cool the damaged reactors but then that water becomes radioactive in the process. The contaminated water is then stored in hundreds of large tanks, which are believed to be the source of several leaks. The amount of contaminated water at the plant continues to grow by 400 tons per day.

On Monday, Tepco said it found another spike in radiation levels near a contaminated water tank at the plant. The cleanup at the plant has been hit by a series of setbacks, including leaks. The problems have cast doubt on Tepco's ability to handle the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Earlier on Monday, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed more government involvement in the cleanup. At a meeting of party lawmakers, Abe said, "The nation will stand at the forefront and carry out necessary measures without leaving the contamination water problems to TEPCO."

"It is necessary to take radical measures, not a haphazard response," he said.

hc/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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