IAEA: Japan's nuclear reactors safe

Nuclear power plant in JapanJapan’s nuclear reactors remain intact even after Friday’s earthquake and tsunami flooded its power plants. Earlier Japanese authorities reported they were injecting sea water to cool down two nuclear reactors in Fukushima Daiichi. The head of the UN’s nuclear agency or IAEA, Yukiya Amano, lay to rest fears that Japan’s nuclear crisis could become another “Chernobyl”-a reference to Russia’s nuclear disaster in which scores of people were killed almost 25 years ago.

Jocelyne Sambira compiled this report.

An unprecedented earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan on Friday followed by two explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered a nuclear scare in the country.

Japanese officials reported that the reactors’ cooling systems were damaged by the natural disasters and that sea water was being used to stabilize the temperatures. 185,000 residents living near the affected nuclear power plants have been evacuated. But the head of the UN’s nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano says the radiation risks are minimal.

“Affected reactors have been shut down automatically so there is no longer a chain reaction of nuclear material. There were some hydrogen explosions- this is not a nuclear reaction but a chemical phenomenon. Despite the hydrogen explosions, the reactor vessels, primary containment vessels, these are designed to prevent the massive release of radioactive activity, stayed intact. As a result, the release of radioactivity is limited.”

Following the blasts, fears were raised that the accident could turn into another Chernobyl, when a reactor exploded in Russia in 1986, turning it into one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters and spreading a radioactive cloud through Europe and Asia.

The possibility that Japan’s accident could turn into another Chernobyl is highly unlikely, says Amano. The core of the nuclear reactor remains intact, he adds, and it was designed with multiple safety measures.

“This is not an accident because of a human error or design. Chernobyl type reactor does not have the reactor vessel or pressure vessel. The design is different and the structure is different. And this reactor is a design that can withstand a severe accident. So these are the elements and based on these differences, my judgment is that this is unlikely that the accident (question mark) in Daiichi would develop into an accident like Chernobyl.”

Yukiya Amano says his agency will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and send experts to Japan to respond to the emergency.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 2’32”

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