Japanese PM makes first trip to Fukushima plant

Japanese PM makes first trip to Fukushima plant Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday made a trip to Fukushima Prefecture, home to a radiation-leaking nuclear power plant, for the first time since he took office last week.

With no end to the six-month-old crisis yet in sight, Noda visited the Fukushima Daiichi power station crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami to inspect reactor buildings as well as to encourage workers at the site.

"Everyone in the country and the world is hoping for an end to the accident," Noda said in front of about 200 workers at the plant.

"You're the key to whether we can overcome" the crisis, he said, adding, "I'll work hard, too, in concert with you."

On the first leg of his one-day trip, Noda also visited the J-Village athletic training facility which has been used as a base camp for efforts to contain the crisis at the power plant, Japan's worst ever nuclear accident.

"You've been highly praised by the public," Noda said to members of the Self-Defense Forces who are struggling to deal with the nuclear emergency and to decontaminate radioactive materials near the station.

"I'm really proud of you as chief of the Self-Defense Forces," Noda said at the facility, wearing blue protective gear.

Later in the day, the new prime minister is set to exchange views with Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato on the government's plan to build a temporary storage facility in the prefecture for radioactive waste.

When Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, last month suddenly unveiled to Sato the idea of setting up such a facility during their talks in Fukushima City, the governor expressed displeasure, saying, "It's an abrupt proposal. We are very much baffled."

Noda, who formally became the country's premier last Friday, is also hoping to meet with residents affected by the accident. Radiation continues to spew from the plant, and many nearby residents remain unable to return to their homes.

Noda had repeatedly expressed his desire to visit Fukushima and has vowed to speed up reconstruction of areas ravaged by the March disaster and nuclear crisis.

The Prime Minister will visit the typhoon-hit prefectures of Wakayama, Nara and Mie in western Japan tomorrow, while he will travel to Miyagi and Iwate prefectures on Saturday, which were struck hard by the quake-tsunami disaster in March, government officials said.