News / Europe

France Calls for Global Nuclear Safety Standards

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan prior to their talks at Kan's official residence in Tokyo, March 31, 2011
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan prior to their talks at Kan's official residence in Tokyo, March 31, 2011

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Henry Ridgwell

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for new international nuclear safety standards, warning radiation leaks at Japan's Fukushima Power Plant could affect the entire world. Sarkozy is calling for nuclear officials from the G20 group of industrialized countries to discuss the issue during a May meeting.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the first foreign leader to visit Japan since it was hit by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

At a news conference following a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Sarkozy warned that what happens at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant could have consequences for what he called the "global village."

Sarkozy said it is necessary to correct the discrepancy that there are no international safety standards for nuclear power plants. He said that in cooperation with the Japanese prime minister, he plans to organize a meeting of nuclear officials from the G20 countries to prepare for the IAEA nuclear safety summit in June. This would ensure, he said, there will be international safety standards in place by the end of the year.

The Japanese prime minister thanked France for its help, but said the first priority for Japan was to prevent the crisis at the Fukushima plant from getting worse.

Kan said that once the situation has been contained to some degree, then officials will have to analyze why the accident has gotten bigger and bigger. By studying that, he said Japan will have to consider what measures can be taken to prevent a recurrence, and this should be agreed upon internationally.

An extra 20 French nuclear technicians are arriving in Japan to help tackle the crisis at the Fukushima plant.

France, which this year is chairing the Group of 20 economic powers, is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, producing 75 percent of its electricity from 58 reactors.
Sarkozy said those calling for all nuclear power plants to be shut down in the wake of the Fukushima crisis should be more realistic.

He said everyone is working hard to reduce CO2 emissions from power generation. But there are not hundreds of solutions to reduce emissions, he said, and that is why this is not a question of choice, but of nuclear safety, because there is no alternative. He also said  alternative energy plans cannot replace nuclear power plants, so safety standards must be strengthened.

In the ocean next to the Fukushima power plant, technicians are reporting the highest levels of radiation yet, about 4,385 times higher than the legal limit.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency insists this poses no danger to human health, however, as everyone has been evacuated from the vicinity and fishing in the area is banned.
Japan's Kyodo news agency says authorities have been unable to collect up to 1,000 radiation-contaminated bodies from inside the evacuation zone.

The confirmed death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami rose to more than 11,400 with 16,500 still missing.

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