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A senior official from the company which operates the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima in Japan has admitted that the situation there is “not under control”.
However, within hours Tepco released a statement saying the official, Kazuhiko Yamashita, meant to say something different.
His comments came in response to a question at a meeting with the opposition Democratic Party. The politician asked whether the company considered the situation at the plant to be under control.
“I’m sorry, but we consider the situation is not under control,” came the reply from Yamashita.
In its subsequent statement, Tepco said what the official meant to say was that there were continuous problems with storage tanks, and when radioactive water leaked out it remained in front of the plant.
All this comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government try to reassure the world at large that the facility is under control.
Tepco has admitted that hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water has leaked from the plant, which was crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The operator added on Friday that it had found elevated readings of tritium in groundwater near tanks holding contaminated water.
Tritium, which has a half-life of around 12 years, is less harmful to humans than caesium and strontium.
However, American nuclear experts acting as consultants for the company claim that if water is correctly decontaminated it can be released into the sea safely.
They added that Tepco should inform the public in more detail of its plans, in order to ease fears over health and the environment.