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UN To Assess Japanese Nuclear Plant Hit By Quake

UN Atomic Watchdog To Send Team To Assess Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Hit By Quake

New York, Nov 4 2008 9:10AM

A team of global experts led by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Japan next month as part of the latest round of assessments on the impact of a strong earthquake last year on the world’s largest nuclear power plant located in the centre of the Asian nation.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture has been shut down since last July’s tremors.

The IAEA team, comprising ten international experts, will make its third mission to the facility from 1-5 December to continue its evaluation of the site’s integrity and seismic safety.

Last year's quake significantly exceeded the level of seismic activity for which the seven-unit Japanese plant was designed, but as with most nuclear plants, additional robustness in design, known as a design safety margin, had been incorporated into the structures, systems and components, probably explaining why damage was less than could have otherwise been expected.

In its previous missions, the IAEA has found that the facility had been shut down safely, with the very small amount of radioactivity released being well below the authorized limits for public health and environmental safety.

A follow-up mission was conducted earlier this year, which found that the earthquake caused no major harm to safety equipment.

Last month, the IAEA launched a centre in Vienna to coordinate global efforts to protect nuclear facilities from earthquakes.

The International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC), which is part of IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, brings together high-level experts and was created after the July 2007 earthquake in Japan revealed the need for international cooperation to protect such facilities from tremors.

“With safety as our first priority, it is vital that we pool all expert knowledge available worldwide to assist nuclear operators and regulators to be well-prepared for coping with major seismic events,” said Antonio Godoy, who heads the new body.

ENDS

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