Edano as Japan Trade Minister May Take Tough Stance on TEPCO

Yukio Edano, Japan’s new trade minister, may take a tougher stance than his predecessors toward power monopolies including Tokyo Electric Power Co., as the government deals with the Fukushima crisis, analysts said.

Edano set the tone for the ministry that oversees Japan’s atomic power industry by repeating remarks he made earlier this year that Tokyo Electric creditors and shareholders should help pay for the costs associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, such as compensation claims.

“He may take a harder line with the utilities, banks and shareholders than his predecessors,” said Hirofumi Kawachi, an energy analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co. in Tokyo.

Read the rest of the story: Edano as Japan Trade Minister May Take Tough Stance on Tepco.

Japan nuclear evacuation area will be no-go zone

Japan Thursday said it would ban people entering the 20 km 12 mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo, weeks after the tsunami-wrecked facility began leaking radiation.

Tens of thousands of people left the zone after the March 11 quake smashed the power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power TEPCO, but some have since returned to their homes to collect belongings.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a press briefing that as of midnight Thursday, people will only be allowed into the zone under government supervision."The setting of the no-entry zone and last months evacuation instruction are aimed at securing the safety of the people," Edano said.

Read the rest of the story: Japan nuclear evacuation ring will be no-go zone, PM.

Japan to limit access to zone near nuke plant, but when, where, and how?

Authorities were considering restricting access to the evacuation zone around Japans crippled nuclear plant Wednesday to limit radiation exposure to residents who may want to return to their homes.

"We are considering setting up caution areas as an option for effectively limiting entry" to the zone, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.It was unclear when the ban might be imposed.

About 70,000-80,000 people were living in the 10 towns and villages within 12 miles 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which has been leaking radiation after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked its power and cooling systems.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the nuclear plants operator, has begun pumping highly radioactive water from the basement of one of its turbine buildings to a makeshift storage area in a crucial step toward enabling work on restoring the cooling systems.

Read the rest of the story: Japan mulls limited access to zone near nuke plant.

Japan says high radiation due to partial meltdown after quake

Mistaken radiation readings given out by the operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant were "absolutely unforgivable," the government’s chief spokesman said on Monday, as work to prevent a catastrophic meltdown faced fresh hurdles.

Engineers have been battling to control the six-reactor Fukushima complex since it was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across Japan’s devastated northeast.

Fires, explosions, and radiation leaks have repeatedly forced them to suspend work, including on Sunday when radiation levels spiked to 100,000 times above normal. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant operator, had earlier said it was 10 million times the normal.

"On one hand, I do think the workers at the site are getting quite tired," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference. "But these radiation tests are being used for making various decisions on safety and therefore these mistakes are absolutely unforgivable."

A partial meltdown of fuel rods inside the reactor vessel was responsible for the high levels of radiation at reactor No. 2, Edano said.

"The airborne radiation is mainly contained within the reactor building. We must make sure this water does not seep out into the soil or out to sea," Edano said.

The spike in radiation levels forced a suspension of work over the weekend at the reactor, with experts warning that Japan faced a long fight to contain the world’s most dangerous atomic crisis in 25 years.

"This is far beyond what one nation can handle – it needs to be bumped up to the U.N. Security Council," said Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California. "In my humble opinion, this is more important than the Libya no fly zone."

Tokyo Electric has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain the overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

"Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over)," TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

He also apologized over the mistaken radiation reading.

Read the rest of the story: Japan raps nuclear operator over radiation mistake.

Edano says Japan would accept US help in nuclear crisis

Japan’s top government spokesman says Tokyo is willing to accept U.S. help in dealing with the country’s nuclear crisis, and is discussing the matter with Washington.

Top government spokesman Yukio Edano says that "We are coordinating with the U.S. government as to what the U.S. can provide and what people really need."

He says: "We have repeatedly asked for specific support, and indeed, they are responding to that."

Read the rest of the story: Japan would accept US help in nuke crisis.

Japan says quake impact on economy ‘considerable’

Japan’s government said Sunday it expects a "considerable" economic impact from a huge earthquake and tsunami that plunged the nation into what the prime minister called its worst crisis since the Second World War.

Economists say it is still too early to assess the full cost of the destruction from the record 8.9-magnitude quake and the 10-metre wall of water that laid waste to the northeastern coast and triggered an atomic emergency.

The official death toll so far is 1,200, but is certain to rise substantially, with one hard-hit prefecture saying as many as 10,000 could be dead.

"The quake is expected to have considerable impact on a wide range of our country’s economic activities," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

Leading risk analysis firm AIR Worldwide said the quake alone would exact an economic toll estimated at between $14.5 billion and $34.6 billion, without taking into account the effects of the tsunami.

The Bank of Japan plans to pump "massive" funds into markets on Monday in a bid to help them stabilise following the linked disasters, Dow Jones Newswires said late Sunday.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index is meanwhile expected to tumble, with the index possibly breaking the psychologically important 10,000 level.

Read the rest of the story: Japan says quake impact on economy ‘considerable’.