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Concerns over radiation remain

Updated: 2012-03-12 07:21
By Zhang Yunbi in Fukushima, Japan ( China Daily)

One year after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, a coastal prefecture in northeastern Japan, concerns still remain globally and nationally over radiation.

The accident occurred after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011, triggered a tsunami, flooding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Cooling devices inside the plant malfunctioned, causing the meltdown.

"The accident has brought great troubles to the general public. I am delivering an apology from the bottom of my heart," Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Company, said at the plant on Sunday afternoon.

TEPCO, the owner of the plant, became the target of public frustration after the disaster and has been bombarded by the media over the last year.

The Japanese government has created a 20-km "no-go-zone" around the plant. Unlicensed vehicles and people are not allowed to enter. A group of teachers from Fukuoka Prefecture in Southwest Japan visited one of the major checking posts south of the plant on Saturday.

One of the teachers, Mihoko Tomono, told China Daily that people in her town are still worried about radiation exposure.

"We are telling our children and students what actually is going on," she said.

Another female teacher used a monitoring device to measure the radiation level outside the plant. It showed that the radiation level was higher just above the surface of the ground.

Fukushima Prefecture's Futaba County, home to the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, has suffered serious soil contamination because of the radiation.

Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono delivered a proposal on Saturday suggesting the construction of three transitional storage facilities in the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Naraha to contain the polluted soil.

A disposal site has also been proposed to be built in the town of Tomioka to store ash after the debris is burned.

The compensation process is underway as TEPCO's president promised on Friday to expand compensation to include more homeless people.

Analysts said the tragedy may have been "preventable", as TEPCO should have protected the Daiichi plant's emergency power supplies by moving them to higher ground or by placing them in waterproof bunkers.

Even though the cooling device and diesel generators broke down, the plant should have utilized a prepared backup water container that requires no additional power or steam to cool down the reactors "within the first hour and a half", said Hidesada Tamai, a researcher with Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Moreover, Tokyo's failure to follow international safety standards and previous lessons of nuclear disclosures contributed to the accident, Washington-based think tank Carnegie Foundation said in a report on March 6.

When a flood hit Blayais Nuclear Power Plant in France in December 1999, a reactor meltdown was reportedly "narrowly avoided".

The flood prompted European countries to enhance their nuclear grids' precautions against extreme disasters, the report said.

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