Tokyo: Japan`s government admitted that its safeguards were insufficient to protect a nuclear plant against the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the facility and caused it to spew radiation, and vowed to overhaul safety standards.
The struggle to contain radiation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex has unfolded with near-constant missteps — the latest involving three workers drenched with water feared to be contaminated.
Safety officials said Wednesday that the three were fine and did not register high radiation levels, but the incident fed criticism of the utility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of Japan`s preparedness for nuclear crises.
The March 11 tsunami that slammed into Japan`s northeast, wiping out towns and killing thousands of people, knocked out power and backup systems at the coastal nuclear power plant.
More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record.
"Our preparedness was not sufficient," Chief Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Tuesday. "When the current crisis is over, we must examine the accident closely and thoroughly review" the safety standards.
An Associated Press investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was far more likely than they believed.
That left the complex with nowhere near enough protection against the tsunami.
The mission to stabilize the power plant has been fraught with setbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires, explosions and radiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete meltdown.
The plant has been leaking radiation that has made its way into vegetables, raw milk and tap water as far away as Tokyo. Residents within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the plant have been ordered to leave and some nations have banned the imports of food products from the Fukushima region.