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Lawyer to take over at Fukushima plant operator
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 19, 2012

A 64-year-old lawyer is to be the new chairman of Tokyo Electric Power, taking on the task of revamping the troubled operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, officials said Thursday.

The plant, which lies about 220 kilometres (135 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was hit by meltdowns and explosions triggered by Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked Kazuhiko Shimokobe, who is also a top board member of the state-run entity providing financial aid to the firm, to succeed the current chairman, 72-year-old Tsunehisa Katsumata.

"I told (Noda) that I will accept the request," Shimokobe told reporters at the prime minister's office after meeting Noda.

The firm, which has been undergoing restructuring under state guidance, will formally name him new chairman at its shareholders' meeting scheduled for June, government officials said.

The utility is soon expected to submit to the government a restructuring plan featuring a one trillion yen ($12 billion) injection of public funds, Kyodo News reported, quoting sources close to the matter.

The government hopes Shimokobe will take the lead in turning around the utility, which is struggling due to massive compensation payments following last year's nuclear accident.

Radiation was scattered over a large area and made its way into the sea, air and food chain in the weeks and months after the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes around the plant and swathes of the area remain badly polluted. The clean-up is proceeding slowly, amid warnings that some towns could be uninhabitable for three decades.

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New underwater images show damage at Fukushima
Tokyo (AFP) April 15, 2012
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