12 Nov 2011

Reporters allowed to tour Fukushima plant

9:31 pm on 12 November 2011

Reporters have been allowed inside the Fukushima nuclear plant in northern Japan for the first time since it was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March.

Touring the plant in protective clothing, the journalists were accompanied by the government minister in charge of the clean-up operation, Goshi Hosono.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered meltdowns and explosions at several reactors after their cooling systems were destroyed by the tsunami.

The authorities have previously rejected requests by journalists to visit the plant, on the grounds that radiation levels were too high and it could hamper operations to tackle the crisis.

This tour was designed to show that the situation at the plant is gradually becoming more stable, the BBC reports.

The reporters were shown a nearby football-training complex that is being used as a base for the clean-up operation. They were also able to get a closer view of the outside of some of the damaged reactors.

Large quantities of radioactive material leaked into the surrounding area following the disaster and much of the countryside around the plant is sealed off.

The authorities are hoping to complete a "cold shutdown" of the damaged reactors by the end of the year. But it could take decades to completely decommission the plant.