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Fukushima Still ‘Precarious,’ Japan’s New Regulator Says at IAEA

Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant is still in a “precarious” state of alert, a commissioner at Japan’s new atomic regulator said today during a visit to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“A lot of precaution, a lot of care, a lot of attention is still needed,” Kenzo Oshima, a commissioner at Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, told reporters in Vienna. “The situation remains precarious.”

Three of the plant’s reactors went into meltdown and parts of a spent-fuel pond at a fourth unit partially collapsed following an earthquake and tsunami in March last year. The disaster contaminated the surrounding environment, forced thousands of people to abandon their homes and led the government to take over plant-owner Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The risk that a further quake could aggravate the spread of radiation has prompted nuclear engineers and politicians abroad to urge Japan to take additional measures. A loss of containment at the fuel pond “could result in an even greater release of radiation than the initial accident,” Ron Wyden, a senator in the U.S. state of Oregon, said in an April letter to the Japanese government.

“I am aware there are a lot of concerns expressed, including by the U.S. senator,” Oshima said. Tepco “considerably reinforced measures so that it can withstand the earthquakes that might happen again.”

Oshima met today with fellow Japanese national Yukiya Amano, who heads the IAEA. The country plans to draft a framework for nuclear safety standards by the end of March. It will then seek public comments and have the policy in place by July, Nuclear Regulation Authority head Shunichi Tanaka said last month.

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