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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Japan nuclear crisis different from Chernobyl, IAEA says; China urges Tokyo to provide prompt updates on crisis

IAEA says Japan crisis different from Chernobyl

VIENNA - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that although Japan has raised the severity level of the accident at the Fukushima No 1 plant, the crisis is quite different from the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
"The mechanics of the accidents are totally different," deputy head of IAEA Denis Flory told the press.
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While Chernobyl accident involves explosion at the reactor core, and the resulting fire and vapors drove a large quantity of radioactive material into the air and surrounding areas, explosions at Fukushima No 1 plant happened outside the pressure vessel which contains the reactor core, Flory said.

He noted that the Japanese nuclear safety authority has estimated that the amount of radioactive material released from the Fukushima No 1 plant to the atmosphere is approximately 10 percent of the Chernobyl accident.

Flory also confirmed that Japanese authorities formally notified the IAEA that the accident is now rated as a level 7, the most serious on an international scale, from the previous 5.

Listed as "Major Accident" on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, Level 7 is used to describe an event comprising "A major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures," according to an IAEA statement.

On a positive note, Flory said although situation remains very serious, "there are early signs of recovery in some functions such as electrical power and instrumentation.

Wen urges Tokyo to provide prompt updates on crisis

BEIJING / TOKYO - Premier Wen Jiabao urged Japan on Tuesday to provide prompt information on the nuclear crisis and quickly implement preventive measures to alleviate the consequences on neighboring countries during a phone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Wen urges Tokyo to provide prompt updates on crisis
A man is tested for radiation exposure in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, on Tuesday. Koriyama is located about 70 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan expanded the evacuation zone around the nuclear plant on Monday because of high radiation levels. [Photo/Agencies]
The conversation took place after Japan raised the crisis level, from 5 to 7, at its crippled nuclear plant on Tuesday, a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Level 7 is the highest rank set by the International Nuclear Event Scale, which means huge quantities of radiation have contaminated a wide area.
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Wen called for Japan to strictly adhere to related international laws, take preventive measures, and promptly and accurately inform China on the latest updates. 
He also said China is willing to strengthen cooperation in disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction with Japan, adding that he wanted to "promote healthy and stable Sino-Japanese relations".

Kan said that, on behalf of the Japanese government and people, he expressed his sincere gratitude to China for immediately sending an international rescue team and offers of aid to the tsunami-devastated area.

He also expressed his gratitude to President Hu Jintao for paying a condolence visit to the Japanese embassy in Beijing, Xinhua reported.

While expressing regret for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kan said Japan would promptly provide accurate information to the international community, including China, on the nuclear crisis.

The Japanese nuclear regulator told reporters on Tuesday that the raising of the severity rating from level 5 to 7 was based on new assessments of radiation leaks from the plant and that radioactive substances could affect human health and the environment.

But the agency emphasized that while the new ranking signified the radiation volume was equal to level 7, it was only one-tenth of the contamination released from Chernobyl into the atmosphere.

"Level 7 does not necessarily represent the extent of the damage, but indicates the amount of radiation released," Chen Zhuzhou, a researcher at the science and technology committee of the China National Nuclear Corporation, told China Daily.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) also stressed the difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima.

NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said the acute radiation exposure at Chernobyl killed 29 people in contrast to Fukushima, where no fatal casualties were reported. He added that the reactors in the Fukushima plant retained their shape and were damaged by hydrogen explosions, unlike Chernobyl where the nuclear reactor itself exploded.

But Edano also reassured reporters that, so far, there was no "direct" damage to human health.

Youhei Hasegawa, a senior official at Japan's Meteorological Agency, said on Tuesday afternoon that a magnitude 6.3 quake which jolted northeastern Japan was one of the aftershocks. Parts of northeastern Japan were getting seismically active and more aftershocks were likely.

China Daily - Agencies 
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