IAEA to Send Team to Quake-Hit Japan Nuclear Plant
VIENNA -- The U.N. nuclear watchdog will send a team of experts to Japan in the coming weeks to check the world's biggest nuclear power plant after a powerful earthquake last week caused radiation leaks, the agency said on Tuesday.
Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant leaked water containing radioactive materials from a reactor after a 6.8 magnitude quake struck northwest Japan on Monday last week. The leaks rekindled fears about the safety of Japan's nuclear industry. "This invitation is important for identifying lessons learned that might have implications for the international nuclear safety regime," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement. Initially, Japan had told the IAEA it did not need help, but on Monday it said it would allow inspectors into the quake-hit plant after coming under pressure from local authorities.
The plant was shut down automatically in the quake and will remain closed indefinitely for safety checks. Japan has ordered other nuclear plant operators to make strict safety checks.
The exact timing of the joint Japanese-IAEA examination will be decided in consultation with the Japanese authorities, the IAEA said, stopping short of giving any dates. The Nikkei business daily reported that four IAEA inspectors would visit the site as soon as early August.
Nuclear energy supplies around one-third of the country's electricity needs in Japan, which now has 55 nuclear reactors.