Japan warned over nuclear plants: WikiLeaks cables

IAEA had warned Japan about its N-plants being incapable of tackling quakes.

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2011, 23:25 PM IST

London: Japan was warned more than two
years ago by the international nuclear watchdog that its
nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful
earthquakes, leaked diplomatic cables reveal.

An official from the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) said in December 2008 that safety rules were out
of date and strong earthquakes would pose a "serious problem"
for nuclear power stations.

The Japanese government pledged to upgrade safety at
all of its nuclear plants, but will now face inevitable
questions over whether it did enough. While it responded to
the warnings by building an emergency response centre at the
Fukushima plant, it was only designed to withstand magnitude
7.0 tremors.

Friday`s devastating earthquake was a magnitude 9.0
shock.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the news is
likely to put further pressure on Japan`s Prime Minister,
Naoto Kan, who has been criticised for "dithering" over the
country`s response to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima
nuclear power plant.

Panic started to spread throughout Japan yesterday
following the news that a third explosion at the plant might
have damaged the protective casing around the reactor core,
increasing the threat of radioactive leaks.

The government was considering using helicopters to
spray water over the Fukushima site to limit the spread of
radioactive particles as part of its increasingly desperate
attempts to keep the situation under control.

Warnings about the safety of nuclear power plants in
Japan, one of the most seismologically active countries in the
world, were raised during a meeting of the G8`s Nuclear Safety
and Security Group in Tokyo in 2008.

A US embassy cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website
and seen by The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed expert who
expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear
power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three
times in the past 35 years.

The document states: "He [the IAEA official] explained
that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised
three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now
re-examining them.

"Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some
cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants,
and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic
safety work."

PTI