Vienna: Japan’s nuclear situation is still very serious but there is no doubt the country will “effectively overcome” the crisis, the head of the U.N. atomic agency said on Monday.
Yukiya Amano, addressing an emergency meeting of the Vienna-based agency’s 35-nation governing board, said he was starting to see some positive developments regarding the stricken nuclear power plant, 240 km north of Tokyo. “The crisis has still not been resolved and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious,” Amano, a Japanese national who is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said.
“In addition, high levels of contamination have been measured in the locality of the plant,” told the closed-door board meeting.
But, “I have no doubt that this crisis will be effectively overcome,” he said according to a copy of his remarks.
Amano, who visited Japan last week urging the government to provide his office with more and faster information, stressed it was member states which were responsible for safety issues and that the IAEA was not a “nuclear safety watchdog.”
But he also said the agency’s role in nuclear safety and standards may need to be re-examined.
“Lessons will need to be learned and the IAEA is where that discussion should take place. A thorough review of the accident will be necessary, in which peer review will have an important role to play,” Amano said.
Nuclear still “important” energy option
The IAEA has faced criticism for failing to provide fast information at the beginning of the crisis to both its member states and the public. The Vienna-based agency had said it was reliant on the information given to it by Japan.
Amano, whose agency draws up safety standards and recommendations but cannot enforce them, blamed the media for misinterpreting the IAEA’s role in nuclear safety and said these “misunderstandings” had fuelled criticism of its handling of the crisis.
But he acknowledged changes were needed.
“The current international emergency response framework needs to be reassessed. It was designed largely in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, before the information revolution,” he said.
In Japan, engineers managed to rig power cables to all six reactors at the Fukushima complex, and started a water pump at one of them to reverse the overheating that has triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.
Some workers were later evacuated from one of the most badly damaged reactors when gray smoke rose from the site. There was no immediate explanation for the smoke, but authorities had said earlier that pressure was building up at the No. 3 reactor.
The amount of smoke later receded and Japan’s nuclear safety agency said there was no significant change in radiation levels at the site.
Amano said some countries were reviewing their nuclear energy plants after Japan’s nuclear crisis. But, he said, “nuclear power will remain an important and viable option for many countries as a stable and clean source of energy.”