Radiation monitoring is continuing in and near the nuclear power plant that suffered major damage from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March, a senior official with the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.
Nearly three months after the incident, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains “very serious,” Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, told a news conference in Vienna, where the Agency is based.
In recent weeks Japanese authorities have carried out a number of measures in response to the incident, and yesterday a fact-finding mission sent by the IAEA submitted its preliminary report on its recent visit to the country.
“The mission gathered evidence, undertook preliminary assessment and developed preliminary conclusions as well as lessons to be learned,” Mr. Flory said.
In its preliminary report, the team of international nuclear safety experts from 12 countries said Japan had underestimated potential tsunami hazards to its nuclear power plants before the March earthquake and tsunami.
They added that “Japan’s response to the nuclear accident has been exemplary… [and that the country’s] long-term response, including the evacuation of the area around stricken reactors, has been impressive and well organized.”
Among the measures taken, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which owns the plant, commenced preparatory work a few weeks ago for the installation of a cover for the reactor building of Unit 1 of the plant.
“This cover will be installed as an emergency measure to prevent the further dispersion of radioactive substances until mid- to long-term measures are implemented,” said Mr. Flory.
To protect against potential damage as a result of future earthquakes, TEPCO also started work on installing a supporting structure for the floor of the spent fuel pool of Unit 4.
It is also continuing with the daily monitoring of the deposition of caesium and iodine radionuclides for 47 prefectures. Since 17 May, the deposition of I-131 has not been observed, while low levels of Cs-137 depositions were reported in a few prefectures, on a few days, since 18 May.
“There are, as always, daily fluctuations with an overall decreasing tendency,” Mr. Flory noted.
Radiation monitoring of the marine environment continues as does food monitoring, he added. There are still restrictions on the distribution of raw unprocessed milk, turnips and bamboo shoots in specific areas of Fukushima prefecture, as well as on the distribution and consumption of specific vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms.