Earthquake, ensuing disasters in Japan a lesson for all

08:54, March 17, 2011      

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The destructive earthquake, ensuing tsunami and radioactive leaks at a nuclear plant in Japan have provided a costly opportunity for countries across the world to take preventive measures against a variety of disasters.

Japan's science and technology ministry said Wednesday that the levels of radiation pose no threat to human health near the troubled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, though the levels have topped usual levels.

But the ministry said that if the levels continue to rise, nearby residents should adopt other measures to avoid exposure to radiation rather than just stay indoors.

China, a close neighbor of Japan, remains unaffected by the radioactive leaks following the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the National Nuclear Safety Administration said, citing national environmental and radiation monitoring results taken by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

But China's State Council also decided Wednesday to suspend the approval process for nuclear power stations so that safety standards can be revised after the explosions at the Japanese plant, and has required relevant departments to do safety checks at existing plants.

"Safety is our top priority in developing nuclear power plants," the State Council said in a statement.

Before the revised safety standards are approved, all new nuclear power plants, including pre-construction works, should be suspended.

Also on Wednesday, the Spanish government said it will carry out a full inspection of all its nuclear power plants though authorities remain confident in the safety of the country's nuclear installations.

The inspection will include an assessment of the risks posed to the plants as a result of seismic activity and possible flooding.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Spain would carry out a "rigorous examination of the security conditions."

"What we are going to do now is make extra sure. Japan has to serve as an experience from which we can all draw conclusions, which are thought through and scientifically backed up which can sustain the resulting political decisions," Zapatero said.

Spain's move came after the European Union said it would conduct "stress tests" on its member states' nuclear power plants, which would include risk assessments of possible damage by earthquakes and high water levels.

Also, thorough stress tests will take place at nuclear plants of neighboring countries including Turkey, Russia and Switzerland.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the country would shut seven of its oldest nuclear reactors built before 1980 for three months for a safety probe.

France, the world's second largest nuclear energy producer, will also launch a series of checks to assess the safety of its reactors.

"The Fukushima disaster reminds us of the requirement of improving the professional management of our industrial risks," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the National Assembly.

With around 20 percent of its energy supply provided by nuclear power, Britain is also to have its nuclear regulator look carefully at the Japanese experience to learn any lessons possible.

Although Rosatom CEO Sergei Kiriyenko said Russia's Far East region was not threatened by the nuclear accident in Japan, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Tuesday a review of the country's nuclear power industry.

Meanwhile, saying there is little chance Italy would experience a similar powerful temblor like the one in Japan given different geographical conditions, Antonio Piersanti, director of the seismology section of the Italian National Geophysics Institute, told Xinhua on Wednesday that the country is not immune to an elevated seismic risk, and there is still much to be done to reinforce the country's buildings.

The massive tsunami following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that slammed into Japan's northeast coast also triggered alarm bells in countries like China, which are developing its marine economy.

Ocean economic zones should be equipped with early warning and emergency response systems, said Song Junli, a government official in charge of the construction work of the Shandong Peninsula Ocean Economic Zone.

"It is imperative to enhance the capacity of disaster warning and responding both locally and nationwide to ensure the safety of people and their properties," Song said.

Tsunamis are not as common as in other countries like Japan but ocean-related disasters are frequent in China, hence the need for robust early warning and emergency response systems, Song added.

Other experts meanwhile pointed out the importance of raising people's awareness of ocean-related problems, which could be a imperative task in all countries close to the ocean or aim to develop marine economies.

Japan's National Police Agency said Friday's quake and tsunami had left 4,164 people dead and 7,843 others unaccounted for in Japan by 6 p.m. (0900 GMT) Wednesday.

Source: Xinhua

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