TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co, the beleaguered operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, said it appointed a former U.S. nuclear regulatory official as an adviser - a sign that it is prepared to reach out for foreign expertise in the face of criticism over its handling of the March 2011 disaster.
Tokyo Electric (Tepco) said in a statement that Lake Barrett, an independent energy consultant and former head of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Nuclear Waste Management, will advise it on steps to decommission the plant and contain contaminated water at the site.
Barrett, who was also a director for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the Three Mile Island plant, the site in Pennsylvania that suffered a partial nuclear meltdown in 1979, will join Tepco's clean-up effort this week.
In the 30 months since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, Tepco has been criticized for failing to tap foreign experts in dealing with cleaning up the site. The utility has come under increased scrutiny after it admitted last month that 300 metric tons (330 tons) of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the hastily built tanks storing contaminated water at the site.
The Japanese government last week pledged nearly half a billion dollars to contain contaminated water problems at the site, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed that the issue is "under control".
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)