Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan sacked three top officials, including the head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, over allegations that government regulators were too cozy with the power industry.
The news comes on the heels of reports that radiation levels are the highest they've been at the Fukushima power plant since the March 11 earthquake/tsunami. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the spike, which was worst at the exhaust towers of the main two reactors.
Japan's political leadership has been harshly criticized following the Fukushima disaster. The industrial safety agency was lambasted for not constructing adequate safety measures, such as a defense against tsunamis, around the nuclear plant.
Firing top officials is unusual in Japan, according to the New York Times, and it can be seen as a sign that Prime Minister Kan is trying to regain the favor of the Japanese people. The three removed officials include Vice Minister for Economy, Trade, and Industry Kazuo Matsunaga, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency chief Nobuaki Terasaka, and Agency for Natural Resources and Energy chief Tetsuhiro Hosono.
Banri Kaieda, Japan's Interior Minister, has previously stated that he would resign, but has made no steps to do so. He said on Thursday that if he leaves, it will be of his own volition, and not dependent on Kan.
The nuclear crisis in Japan began in March, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a violent tsunami, damaged many parts of the country. The Fukushima Daiichi plant was severely damaged, and a meltdown began days after the disaster after the cooling system failed.
Nearly 24,000 people were killed in the natural disaster and following events, and more than 8,000 are still missing. About 88,000 people are homeless and living in shelters.