Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is briefed on the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant as he tours the facility, Sept. 19, 2013. AFP / Getty Images
A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met Japanese government officials in Tokyo Monday as part of a mission to check on progress in the cleanup at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which repeatedly leaked radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean after a 2011 earthquake and subsequent meltdowns.
The Japanese government has been stepping up efforts to allow international help after Tokyo was criticized for its perceived reluctance to accept foreign expertise in handling the situation.
The 16-member IAEA team is conducting a follow-up mission focusing on dealing with contaminated areas surrounding the site.
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During their nine-day visit, the IAEA experts plan to coordinate with the Japanese government and nuclear officials and to visit villages near the power plant.
Many Fukushima residents have not returned to their homes because of the radioactive contamination, even after the Japanese government lifted evacuation advisories in some areas.
Concerns remain high over how the lingering contamination will affect the safety of Fukushima's inhabitants.
Japanese Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue said that despite "extreme challenges," progress was being made.
"Decontamination has significantly increased to the point where, in certain areas, the work is completed," he said.
Neighbor's nuclear U-turn?
Elsewhere in Asia, events since the earthquake in Japan have meanwhile been increasingly affecting attitudes about nuclear energy policies.
Public discontent over nuclear power in South Korea had already been been fanned by a scandal over the use of fake safety certificates which, since 2012, have prompted a series of reactor shutdowns in the country.
On Sunday, South Korea's Energy Ministry published findings of a study group consisting of 60 representatives from academic institutions, industry and civic bodies who recommended that the country – which currently generates a third of its electricity from nuclear power – reduce its reliance on the energy source.
The study group recommended reducing the portion of electricity that can be generated by nuclear power to between 22 percent and 29 percent. That compares to 41 percent proposed in a government plan for 2030.
New reactors planned over the next 10 years will still be built as older ones are phased out, but plans for more nuclear reactors are likely to be suspended, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reported.
The government is expected to hold public hearings over the report's conclusions and plans to draw up final revisions to energy policy in December, the study group said.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press