IAEA head wants to visit Fukushima nuclear plant

AFP and Reuters

VIENNA — The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog would like to visit the site of a devastated nuclear plant in Japan, he said on Thursday as he departed for Tokyo to glean details about the escalating crisis. Japanese military helicopters and fire trucks doused the overheating Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant with water on Thursday but have been hindered due to high radiation levels. “The situation continues to be very serious,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano told reporters at Vienna airport as he left with a small group of nuclear experts. “We wish to go to the site, but we will discuss it upon our arrival. “This is a very serious accident but Japan is not alone, the international community is standing by Japan,” he said. Amano said he would ask Japanese authorities to improve communications with the Vienna-based IAEA, which has been struggling to keep up with fast-developing events because of a lack of timely and detailed data from Japan.

The Fukushima No. 1 plant, situated 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, has been hit by a series of explosions since Friday’s massive earthquake knocked out reactor cooling systems in the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986. Amano said he would fly to Japan to see the situation for himself.

Given that the IAEA is the international body in charge of nuclear safety and has been working with Japan since the beginning of the disaster, Amano wants face-to-face “contact with those people who are working there to tackle the accident. And I’ll be able to have first-hand information,” he said. One of the IAEA’s key functions is to coordinate offers of help and assistance. “Therefore I would like to explore where we can best help Japan … and to explore further possibilities for coordination, cooperation and further improve communication,” Amano said.