Reactor decommissioning inevitable, says Japan power company

Reactor decommissioning inevitable, says Japan power company

Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), said he was very sorry about causing concern and inconvenience to society due to the fires, explosions and radiation leaks from the plant.

Katsumata said he was especially sorry for those living in the vicinity who "have been forced into a very severe situation" as some have had to stay indoors and others to evacuate.

The evacuation order would remain in place for at least several weeks, he said. Katsumata has taken charge of the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after TEPCO president Masataka Shimizu was hospitalised Tuesday amid reports of high blood pressure and dizziness.

TEPCO has been struggling to avert a potential disaster since the plant was hit by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The disaster knocked out the power to the cooling systems, raising the risk of overheating and a potential meltdown.  Katsumata said he apologised for the fact that Shimizu has not appeared before the media since a March 13 press conference, drawing criticism for his low profile.

Jiji Press reported Sunday that Shimizu, 66, had stepped down from his duties because of "overwork" during the nation's worst nuclear crisis. On March 16, Shimizu was ordered by doctors to move out of the crisis centre in Tokyo and into other quarters, the news agency said, citing unnamed sources. According to the report, he had recovered and returned to the centre before being taken ill Tuesday.

Huge compensation claims against the company were expected, and observers said they doubted it had the financial capacity to meet them. Japanese media reported Tuesday that some Japanese lawmakers had already proposed a plan for the state to take a majority stake in TEPCO and help pay for the damage.