News / Asia

IAEA Experts Say Japan Underestimated Tsunami Threat

A team of international experts investigating the Fukushima nuclear accident says Japan underestimated the risk posed by tsunamis to its nuclear plants.

The finding is contained in a preliminary report prepared for delivery to the Japanese government Wednesday. The 18-member team's full report will be delivered to an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting beginning June 20 in Vienna.

Wednesday's report says Japanese officials did everything possible in the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami, which knocked out electric power and cooling systems leading to likely core meltdowns at three of the Fukushima plant's six reactors.

Fred Gerber of Project Hope speaks with VOA's Steve Norman about his group's efforts to help rebuild the medical infrastructure in northeast Japan.

But it says the accident shows that nuclear plant designers in Japan and around the world must make greater efforts to anticipate and prepare for natural disasters.

The team also criticized Japan for failing to act on an IAEA recommendation three years ago that it separate its nuclear regulatory agency from its trade and industry ministry.

The IAEA team includes experts from France, Russia, China and the United States. They have been in Japan since May 24.

New evidence of radioactive leakage continues at the plant, almost three months after the accident. National broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday that high levels of dangerous strontium 90 have been found in soil samples around the plant.

Officials are also struggling to cope with rising levels of radioactive water in the basements of several of the reactors, fed by heavy recent rains.

The broadcaster also reported that a charity offering scholarships to children orphaned by the earthquake and tsunami has received applications on behalf of more than 1,100 children.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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