Tokyo: Japan's prime minister said on Saturday the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant would take decades, in the first government announcement of a long-term timeframe for the clean-up.
A monster tsunami crippled cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake, with three reactors suffering meltdowns, triggering the world's worst nuclear emergency in a generation.
"Many people have been forced to evacuate," Naoto Kan said during a meeting of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
"It is expected to take three, five, or 10 years for controlling it, and even several decades until the accident settles finally."
The Japan Atomic Energy Commission and Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co have set a provisional goal of starting the removal of melted nuclear fuel at about 2021, public broadcaster NHK said.
The station reported that the authorities, the operator and equipment manufacturers also expect "several decades" to pass before the reactors are ready to be dismantled, citing a long-term roadmap for bringing the plant under control.
Japan has unveiled a short-term emergency plan to stabilise the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which has emitted high levels of radiation after its cooling systems were knocked out.
But the government had not until Saturday presented an estimate of how long it will take before the crisis can be brought to an end.
Moscow: The toll from the magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami which struck north-east Japan on March 11 has risen to 15,500, police said on Sunday.
Another 7,306 people remain missing after the twin disasters which destroyed infrastructure and triggered a major crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Work is continuing to stabilise the crippled plant which is still leaking radioactive material.
Last month, Japan's Parliament passed a USD 49 billion emergency budget for reconstruction following the March disaster. A small extra budget is due to be submitted to Parliament next month.
In a statement last week, Japan's government said the direct material damage from the disaster stood at USD 210 billion.
Tokyo: Tokyo Electric Power Co halted an operation to clean highly contaminated waste water at a crippled Japanese nuclear plant due to higher-than-expected radiation levels.
The embattled operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi facility said it had suspended the procedure just hours after it started because a new part was needed, adding that it did not know when it would resume.
Part of the system that absorbs radioactive caesium had reached its processing capacity and needed to be replaced far earlier than expected, TEPCO officials said.
The operation started at 8:00 pm Friday (1100 GMT) and was stopped five hours later, said TEPCO, which had earlier expected the part to last for one month.
"We are studying the cause of this," said Junichi Matsumoto, TEPCO official in charge of nuclear operations.
TEPCO officials speculated that highly radioactive mud might have entered the treatment system or that waste water was more radioactive than previously measured.
"We do not have a firm timing as to when we can resume the operation of the water treatment facility," Matsumoto told a press conference.
TEPCO has struggled to cool overheating reactors at the plant, hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami on March 11.
The wave knocked out reactor cooling systems, sparking meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks.
The world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986 has caused radioactive material to spew into the air, ground and sea and forced the evacuation of 80,000 people in a 20-kilometre (12-mile) radius.
Workers have pumped water into reactor cores and fuel rod pools, leaving more than 100,000 tonnes of contaminated water in basements, drains and ditches, some of which has leaked into the ocean.
The water must be decontaminated before it can be stored or recycled back through the reactors to cool them.
Pumping out the highly radioactive water should then allow workers to start longer-term repair work to the cooling systems.