/ 12 April 2011

Japan nuclear plant stabilising ‘step by step’

Japan Nuclear Plant Stabilising 'step By Step'

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Tuesday that the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant is gradually stabilising and that the amount of radiation being released is falling.

“Step by step, the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi power plant are moving toward stability,” Kan said in a televised press conference. “The level of radioactive materials released is declining.”

Kan also asked people to return to normal life one month after a massive seabed earthquake sent a tsunami barrelling into Japan’s north-east coast, sparking the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

“I have a proposal. Let us live a normal life, as best we can, without falling into a mood of self-restraint, while having compassion for the people who were affected by the disaster,” Kan said.

Ongoing emergency
The giant wave knocked out the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading fuel rods to overheat and sparking explosions in an ongoing emergency that workers are still battling to bring under control.

“We have caused a great deal of trouble for the world,” he said. “We must thoroughly explain our experience.”

“We must make efforts to increase the safety of nuclear reactors,” Kan said. “If trouble is found, there might be cases where we may stop reactors.”

But he added: “At this point, we have no plan to stop operating reactors.”

The centre-left premier, whose Democratic Party of Japan took power in 2009, also said he wanted the conservative-led opposition to help draft a reconstruction plan after the nation’s worst post-war calamity.

The March 11 disaster killed more than 13 000 people and left more than 14 000 missing. About 150 000 people are still in emergency shelters.

Kan referred to the reconstruction of Japan after World War II and said: “With this disaster as an opportunity, I hope and expect that the momentum will increase to rebuild Japan.”

Kan said a reconstruction commission would be launched this month.

The premier also apologised for the effect on regional farmers after contamination sparked bans on produce from four prefectures, which have since been eased.

“For those in the agricultural and fisheries sectors, I deeply apologise for the stoppage of shipment of their products,” he said.

“As the representative of the government, I offer my deepest apology.”

With shipping restrictions eased, Kan said: “Consuming produce from the affected region is one way of offering assistance. Let us enjoy products from the region, eat them, and support the region.” — AFP