Japan underestimated threat of tsunami to nuclear plants

IAEA Team

Japan underestimated the threat posed by a tsunami on its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake.

That's the conclusion of an international team of nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has completed a preliminary assessment of safety issues at the plant.

The tsunami and earthquake, which destroyed thousands of buildings and infrastructure in Japan, killed more 15,000 people, injured thousands of others and over 8,000 are missing.

Derrick Mbatha reports.

The team of experts visited three nuclear sites in Japan, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

There they went to the only generator to survive the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at a reactor unit of Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Peter Kaiser is with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

CUT 1:                                     Kaiser

"The team was comprised of international experts with experience across a range of nuclear specialities. They came from 12 countries: Argentina, China, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States."

The team has presented to Japanese authorities a summary of a draft report they have prepared which includes lessons learned from the accident.

It describes Japan's response to the nuclear accident as exemplary. It says that staff at the nuclear power plant demonstrated dedication and determination working under exceptional circumstances.

CUT 2:                                     Kaiser

"Japan's long term response, including the evacuation of the area around stricken reactors, has been impressive and well organized. A suitable and timely follow-up programme on public and workers exposures and health monitoring would be beneficial."

However, the team is critical of how Japan evaluated the threat posed by the tsunami to its nuclear plants.

CUT 3:                                     Kaiser

"The tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated. Nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies."

The international nuclear experts will deliver their final report on their assessment of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna later this month.

 Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.

Duration: 1’58″

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