Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Saturday it will take decades to clean up and decommission the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.
Kan's comments marked the first time that Japan's government has offered a timeframe for the clean-up at Fukushima beyond the emergency measures now underway to shut down its reactors.
"It will take three, five, ten years, or eventually several decades to take care of the accident," Kan told local officials from his Democratic Party of Japan meeting in Tokyo.
The Fukushima nuclear plant lost power after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Three of the reactors had uranium fuel meltdown, and a series of hydrogen explosions scattered radioactive debris across a wide area.
Some 80,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area around the plant because of the threat from radiation.