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2011年4月 3日 (日)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 1
EDITORIAL: Worried international community offers support for Fukushima operation

Foreign countries have started to offer substantial support to the effort to contain the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, host of this year's Group of Eight summit, has traveled to Japan, and traces of radioactive material believed to be from the Fukushima plant are now being detected outside the country. The effort to contain the nuclear disaster had taken on an international aspect.

At Fukushima, a large volume of radioactive water is hampering work to regain control of the crippled nuclear reactors. High levels of radioactive materials are leaking into the sea.

There is some distrust in the international community of Japan's effort to deal with the crisis. International support is being offered in the context of that concern.

It looks like the operation at Fukushima will continue for a long time. It is natural that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, should accept international assistance. Japan should draw on the expertise of foreign countries.

Cooperation with the United States, which has significant nuclear know-how, is crucial. In addition to offering expert advice, the United States has decided to dispatch a military unit equipped to deal with radioactive pollution.

Among the other equipment provided by the United States is a remote-control robot that could work inside the plant. Technology to replace personnel in dangerous locations is likely to be particularly useful to the workers at Fukushima.

France, which relies heavily on nuclear power, has sent measuring equipment as well as large quantities of protective clothing and masks. French experts who might be able to help with the problem of shifting contaminated water in the plant have arrived in Japan. Britain and Germany have also offered to dispatch their own specialists.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is urging the government to conduct a detailed survey of radioactive pollution around the No. 1 plant to inform its decisions on evacuating residents.

The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union is a major factor in the sensitivity of international society to the current situation in Japan.

Radioactive substances from Chernobyl spread across a large area of Europe. The Chernobyl disaster was even described as causing "global radiation exposure." Chernobyl taught the world that nuclear disasters cannot be properly dealt with by an individual country.

The Fukushima case will be the first time that international society has cooperated to deal with a catastrophic nuclear disaster.

The important thing is to combine foreign support effectively with Japan's own personnel, equipment and know-how.

What will have to be done to stabilize the reactors and stop them from leaking radioactive substances? What technology and personnel from which countries will be most effective? These points need to be considered. If necessary, Japan should ask foreign countries to help in specific areas.

Instead of acting separately, the Foreign Ministry and TEPCO should work together to deal with the situation as a single unit. The prime minister's office should serve as the command post and make the key decisions, while listening to the opinions of experts.

Japan also needs to be more forthcoming with accurate information to help dispel distrust in other countries.


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