UN atomic watchdog approves Japan's reactor tests



UN atomic watchdog approves Japan`s reactor tests Tokyo: The UN's nuclear watchdog on Tuesday gave its seal of approval to Japan's reactor safety checks, but said Tokyo had to step up efforts to regain public confidence in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in the country at the government's invitation as officials look for ways to convince a deeply sceptical population that idled nuclear plants are safe to restart.

With just a handful of Japan's 54 reactors still operational, officials are nervously eyeing possible electricity shortfalls unless reactors are brought back online -- something that can only be done if local communities consent.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) called on the IAEA to assess the stringency of the so-called stress tests to which all reactors are subjected before being given the green light to resume operations.

"The conclusion of the team is that NISA's instructions and review process for the comprehensive safety assessments are generally consistent with IAEA safety standards," the delegation said in a statement.

But the mission urged Tokyo to engage with people living in the shadow of nuclear plants as it tries to convince them the technology is safe.

"NISA should conduct meetings with interested parties near the nuclear facilities," it said.

The stress tests were introduced as a way of determining how reactors would cope with the impact of large-scale natural disasters after meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi caused by last March's earthquake and tsunami.

Radiation was scattered over a large area and made its way into the oceans, air and food chain in the weeks and months after the disaster, reversing the mood among Japan's once nuclear-friendly public.

The energy-hungry nation has virtually no natural resources of its own and had relied on atomic power for around a third of its electricity before March 11.

PTI