OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Wearing full protective gear, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda went on an inspection tour of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant here Oct. 7 and ordered officials to accelerate decontamination efforts.
It was his second visit to the facility, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., since September 2011.
Noda went inside the wrecked No. 4 reactor building, one of three in the complex that were rocked by explosions soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011.
Noda also visited Naraha town, located south of the nuclear plant, where decontamination work is continuing. He then inspected a temporary storage site for soil contaminated with radioactive materials.
The prime minister instructed Hiroyuki Nagahama, state minister in charge of the nuclear accident, to accelerate decontamination work.
Noda used the visit to offer encouragement to 200 people working at an office set up by the government inside the plant to deal with the aftermath of the reactor meltdowns.
"What you are doing now with a sense of mission and responsibility is supporting our efforts to rebuild Japan," Noda said.
After that, he spent about five minutes on the rooftop of the No. 4 reactor building. The outer walls of the building were blown out during the explosion.
It was Noda's first visit to the stricken power plant since he declared last December that the immediate crisis had passed.
After the visit, he told reporters: "Compared to my previous visit, I felt more strongly (this time) that the work toward decommissioning of the reactors was going steadily. But the road to decommissioning of the reactors is still a long one."
Noda also revealed that he had instructed Nagahama to accelerate decontamination efforts. Steps to be taken include beefed-up cooperation among government organizations and providing detailed information on progress to local residents.
"The basis for the restoration of Fukushima is decontamination," Noda said.
He also visited a facility that is checking all bags of rice harvested in Fukushima Prefecture. During the visit, he publicized the safety of local rice by eating it himself.
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