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Japan's new PM in crisis-hit Fukushima
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 8, 2011

Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday visited Fukushima for the first time since he took office a week ago, paying tribute to hundreds of workers battling to contain the nuclear crisis.

Noda, who declared "without the rebirth of Fukushima, there will not be a rebirth of Japan," when he was sworn in Friday, will inspect the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and meet prefecture governor Yuhei Sato.

Noda visited the J-Village sports facility, which has become a makeshift base camp accommodating hundreds of emergency workers who have spent nearly six months working to stabilise the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

"Since the accident occurred, you all have worked on the front line for the Japanese people. I express my heartfelt gratitude," Noda said, according to Jiji Press, as he bowed to hundreds of workers.

He also praised troops dispatched to the area, saying they had worked "tirelessly" for the benefit of Japan.

"I feel proud from the bottom of my heart as the commander in chief of the Self-Defence Forces," he said.

Noda came to power on Friday, replacing his predecessor Naoto Kan who stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the aftermath of the March 11 triple disaster -- a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and nuclear accident.

The towering wall of water battered cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, 220 kilometres (138 miles) northeast of Tokyo, triggering reactor meltdowns and the spewing of radiation into the environment.

The government has said some areas close to the plant may be uninhabitable for years due to dangerous contamination, amid an erosion of public faith in how forthcoming officials have been about the consequences of the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people in a 20 kilometre radius and in some pockets beyond the plant have been evacuated, but many activists and scientists have called for a wider exclusion zone.

Japan is struggling to bring the crippled reactors to a state of cold shutdown by a January target.

Noda also plans to drive around the no-go zone and observe local residents' decontamination work in Date city, just outside of the evacuation zone.

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Spain awards "heroes" of Japan nuclear disaster
Madrid (AFP) Sept 7, 2011
The "heroes of Fukushima" who braved high radiation to battle nuclear disaster in Japan won Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Concord prize, the jury said Wednesday. On March 11, Japan was hit by a triple disaster - a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago. The towering wall of water battered cooling systems at the Fu ... read more

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