The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Wednesday it viewed the situation at Fukushima “seriously” and was ready to help if called upon, while nearby China said it was “shocked” to hear contaminated water was still leaking from the plant, and urged Japan to provide information “in a timely, thorough and accurate way”.
“We hope the Japanese side can earnestly take effective steps to put an end to the negative impact of the after-effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters in Beijing.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the situation “deplorable”, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said it feared the disaster – the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier – was “in some respects” beyond the plant operator’s ability to cope.
The NRA said it was worried about leakage from other similar tanks that were built hastily to store water washed over melted reactors at the station to keep them cool. Water in the latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers.
NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka likened the stricken nuclear plant to a house of horrors at an amusement park. “I don’t know if describing it this way is appropriate, but it’s like a haunted house and, as I’ve said, mishaps keep happening one after the other,” he told reporters. “We have to look into how we can reduce the risks and how to prevent it from becoming a fatal or serious incident.”
He said the NRA would consult with the IAEA about whether it was appropriate to assign a rating to the leakage at the plant.
Each one-step INES increase represents a 10-fold increase in severity, according to a factsheet on the IAEA website. (www.iaea.org/) A Level 3 rating is assigned when there is exposure of more than 10 times the limit for workers, according to the factsheet.
South Korea’s Asiana Airlines Inc said it would cancel charter flights between Seoul and Fukushima city in October due to public concerns over the radioactive water leaks.
The city, around 60 kms (37 miles) from the nuclear facility and with a population of some 284,000, is a popular destination for golfers and tourists visiting nearby local hot springs and lakes.