TOKYO, Feb. 8 (Kyodo) — The Japanese government decided Friday to form a new panel to oversee the decommissioning of the four reactors at the accident-stricken Fukushima Daiichi complex, comprised of related ministries, the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and domestic plant makers.
The establishment of the panel follows the launch of a new government led by Prime Shinzo Abe, who has vowed to accelerate the decommissioning work that will involve technology development to remove the melted fuel left inside three crippled reactors.
The government and TEPCO have held meetings to work together on the issue at irregular intervals, but government officials said the new panel will be held regularly and will not only decide on the work schedule toward the decommissioning but also confirm the progress.
The panel will be chaired by the economy, trade and industry minister. Members will include top officials of TEPCO and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency as well as Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., which were involved in the construction and designing of the Fukushima plant.
The first meeting of the panel is expected to be held later in the month, the officials said.
During the Fukushima crisis, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered core meltdowns and the building housing the No. 4 reactor has been severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion.
Under the current work schedule, TEPCO and the government expect the decommissioning work to take up to about 40 years.