Japan orders immediate safety steps for nuclear plants

March 30, 2011

(Reuters) - Japan‘s trade ministry ordered nuclear power plant operators to immediately start implementing new safety measures on Wednesday in light of the crisis at the Fukushima plant, which it said was due to a higher tsunami than expected after the March 11 earthquake.

The steps, to be completed by the end of April, include preparing backup power in case of loss of power supply, and having fire trucks with hoses ready at all times to intervene and ensure cooling systems for both reactors and pools of used fuel are maintained.

The operators must also revise their own operating manuals and train staff based on the revised rules.

The measures, to be implemented by the ministry’s safety agency, do not necessarily require nuclear plant operations to be halted, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda told a news conference.

“These are the minimum steps we can think of right now that should be done immediately,” Kaieda said.

“We shouldn’t wait until a so-called overhaul or a comprehensive revision — something major that would take a long time — is prepared. We should do whatever we can if and when there is something (which safety authorities agree is) viable and necessary,” he said.

The reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant automatically shut after the magnitude 9.0 quake and subsequent tsunami devastated coastal areas of northeast Japan on March 11.

The crisis at the Fukushima plant of radiation leaks and partial meltdown of nuclear fuel had three direct causes, the ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Wednesday, pinpointing a loss of emergency power and disabled cooling systems for reactors as well as for pools holding spent nuclear fuel.

(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Michael Watson)


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