06/01/2011, 00.00
JAPAN-UN

UN: Japan has "underestimated" the risk of a tsunami at Fukushima

The International Atomic Energy Agency published a three-page report on the disaster at the Daiichi nuclear plant. The report highlights weaknesses, but also praises the "exemplary" response to the crisis. The future of the country’s nuclear industry is unknown. The government accepted the report.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The UN nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a three-page report that Japan had "underestimated" the risk of a tsunami hitting nuclear power plants, in particular Fukushima. However, it said the response to the nuclear crisis that followed the 11 March quake and tsunami was "exemplary". In addition, the IAEA says that the country must continue to carefully monitor the risks to human health after the crisis, which is still ongoing at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The report highlights some of the shortcomings made evident by the disaster. In particular, it stresses the failure to plan for a tsunami that would overrun the 5.7-metre break wall at the plant, despite warnings by government agencies and by scientists of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant.

The IAEA also highlighted the importance of independent observers in the field of nuclear energy. In Japan there has been criticism because the Nuclear Safety Agency is part of the industry ministry, which promotes atomic energy. Goshi Hosono, an aide to the Prime Minister Naoto Kan, has accepted the IAEA report in a step intended to show that the Japanese authorities want to use the lessons learned from Fukushima to make the remaining reactors safe. Hosono said that the government will revise the industry’s framework. The report will be discussed at an international ministerial conference from 20-24 June in Vienna.

Japan is operating 19 of its 54 reactors. This number is expected to decrease if the government is not able to reassure local authorities with the new efficiency measures. In the worst case scenario, all the reactors could be closed by mid-2012 causing a 30% cut in electricity production, and increasing the possibility of permanent energy rationing. The disaster at Fukushima has forced approximately 80 thousand people to flee their homes, and has increased concerns for safety – in particular the safety of children – and for food.  

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