‘Experts should come up with better safety standards for nuclear reactors’: Japanese ambassador

Media reports wrongly compared Fukushima nuclear disaster with Chernobyl and created panic. It is far less than what happened in Chernobyl


Geetanjali Minhas | April 29, 2011

“Nuclear policy and future preparations should be viewed in a scientific manner. Experts and scientists from all countries should sit and share their experiences and come up with better ideas for safety standards. The decisions cannot be based on emotions.” These views were expressed by Akitaka Saiki, ambassador of Japan to India while addressing a packed audience at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai earlier this week.

Allaying fears that there is no meltdown in Japan, the Japanese ambassador said, “Media reports have wrongly compared Fukushima nuclear disaster with Chernobyl and created panic. It is far less than what happened in Chernobyl.”

“As on date, 14,000 people have been reportedly killed and the number is rising as the search continues .13,000 people are missing, 15,000 people have been evacuated and property worth more than 300 billion US Dollars equivalent to 3.3 - 5.2 percent of Japanese GDP has been damaged in unprecedented , unforeseen natural disaster in Japan” he said.

“In the first phase of the supplementary budget, (we) will spend 50 billion US Dollars on recovery of roads, ports, harbors, housing etc. Budget will be spent on removing rubbles which are piling up and providing temporary housing for evacuees and for supporting small and medium enterprises which form more than 90 percent of Japanese companies.”

“Out of 54 nuclear parks operating in Fukushima, six reactors produce ten percent of the total electricity in Japan. Current 29 percent electricity generation from nuclear power will go up to 37 percent by 2014 and further 41 percent by 2019,” he said and added that 29 percent power generation comes from natural gas, 25 percent from coal, 85 percent from hydro power, seven percent from petrol and one percent from geo thermal and other new energy sources.

For constant power supply, a compromise has to be found, he said. “More than 50 percent Japanese population supports nuclear power though safety remains a paramount concern,” the ambassador added.

Fukushima reactors were built in 1970 and since then technology has advanced with constant improvements. “Though Japan has stringent safety standards, like here in India people have sentiments about having reactors in their backyard. Japan cannot afford to import petrol or coal for power generation and solar and thermal energy sources have not been developed to reach consumption levels for the time being” he said.

Speaking on Indo- Japanese economic trade, the Japanese ambassador said, “In 2009 trade between the two countries was merely 12.5 billion US dollars. It is expected to double in next five years.”

On the civil nuclear agreement between India and Japan he said, “We have a common goal in concluding the treaty on both sides.”

Allaying people’s concerns on food production in nuclear disaster areas Saiki, he said that it is neither exported nor under distribution.

Answering a question on lessons learnt from Fukushima diasater, the Japanese ambassador said that Japanese scientists will now have to look into what went wrong and if necessary will have no hesitation to learn from other countries if their quality is better than that of Japan.

Speaking on damage to reactors precipitated by tsunami, Saiki said, “Despite the earthquake, the reactors sustained. The unthinkable happened when during tsunami height of waves was double than that have been projected and the electricity supply to reactors to keep them cool was destroyed. An electricity supply backup system in a remote place would have helped. Perhaps that is one of the lessons that the Japanese scientists will learn now.”



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