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Ban calls for stronger nuclear safety measures in light of Japanese crisis

Ban calls for stronger nuclear safety measures in light of Japanese crisis

Nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, experienced system failure after the massive quake and tsunami
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for a stronger international nuclear safety regime in light of the crisis caused by Japan's earthquake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, which has been spewing radioactive contamination into the air.

“The existing institutional arrangement, including the joint radiation emergency management plan of international organizations, with the IAEA (UN International Atomic Energy Agency) as the main coordinating body, needs to be reviewed and strengthened,” he said in a statement after a video conference with top UN agency officials.

“I also encourage States to consider lessons learned and to adopt appropriate measures in an innovative way to strengthen the nuclear safety regime and ensure that the highest possible standards are implemented to safeguard health, food supply and the environment as well as reviewing the disaster risk reduction framework.”

Those participating in the conference included IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization (CTBTO) Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Also taking part were senior representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

Meanwhile a joint IAEA-FAO food safety mission is currently on its way to Japan where radioactivity from Fukushima has been detected in some vegetables, milk and water, with radioactive iodine-131 present in concentrations above Japanese regulatory limits and caesium-137 showing up at lower concentrations.

Japanese health authorities recommended that babies not be given water in a Tokyo area after it showed radioactive levels above those permissible, but the restriction has been lifted as the levels have now decreased.

In a daily briefing in Vienna on the crisis, IAEA Special Adviser on Scientific and Technical Affairs Graham Andrew said there had been little change in the past 24 hours. “Some positive trends are continuing but there remain areas of uncertainty that are of serious concern,” he noted.

The plant's unit one now has power to its lighting and some of its instrumentation, while unit three has lighting but not power to its central control room. Electricity, knocked out by the quake and tsunami, is requited to power the cooling system to prevent a melt down and further release of radioactive plumes.

“It remains too early to evaluate how much instrumentation may effectively be recovered at units one to four,” Mr. Andrew said. Onsite readings show that radiation dose rates continue to decrease at the site.