Japan: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant chief steps down due to illness

TOKYO (BNO NEWS) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Monday announced that the head of its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will be stepping down from his post due to an illness.

Masao Yoshida, 54, has been hospitalized after suffering from an illness, although details regarding his condition as well as his accumulated exposure to radiation were not disclosed. TEPCO confirmed he will be relieved from his post as of Thursday, the Kyodo news agency reported.

A recent checkup revealed the sickness, but officials have not confirmed a link between his medical condition and his exposure to radiation. Nonetheless, Yoshida had been working onsite, maximizing his efforts to bring the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been leaking radiation since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, under control.

Tepco also announced that 54-year-old Takeshi Takahashi, a nuclear power and plant division chief, will replace Yoshida on Thursday.

Last week, Japan's upper house of parliament passed the third extra budget for the current fiscal year to finance reconstruction efforts following the disaster, approving a 12-trillion yen ($156-billion) budget, which also includes measures to help ease the negative impact of the strong yen.

The Japanese government will allocate more than 6 billion dollars to subsidize Japanese companies which are building new factories in the country in an attempt to encourage Japanese firms not to move factories and related operations overseas.

About 20 billion dollars of the budget will provide financial support for local authorities in disaster-hit areas to implement reconstruction projects. In addition, 3 billion dollars are earmarked for projects to remove radioactive materials from areas affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Japan has been facing an ongoing nuclear crisis since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged on March 11 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami devastated the country. The disaster disabled the cooling systems of the plant and radioactive elements leaked into the sea and were later found in water, air and food products in some parts of Japan.

At least 15,839 people were killed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami while 3,642 others remain missing. There are still more than 88,000 people who are staying in shelters in 21 prefectures across Japan.

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