More countries grow more cautious after Fukushima nuclear accident

09:51, March 18, 2011      

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More countries, while rushing aid to Japan, adopted a cautious attitude towards their own nuclear programs on Thursday amid fears of massive nuclear leakages caused by last week's destructive earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

As the National Police Agency said the disaster had left 5,429 people dead and 9,594 others unaccounted for by 4:00 p.m. (0700 GMT), military helicopters were dumping tons of water upon the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in the morning to avert a possible nuclear meltdown.

Fires struck the plant's No. 4 reactor starting from Tuesday, triggering fears of a catastrophic radiation leak from spent fuel rods.

South Korea, expanding the no-go area by advising its nationals to stay outside an 80-km radius surrounding the Fukushima power plant, on Thursday also reduced the monitoring cycle of its own 71 radiation monitoring networks nationwide from the usual 15 minutes to every five minutes.

Authorities said radiation levels across South Korea remain unchanged after the earthquake in Japan, and if the levels rise, they will further reduce the monitoring period to every two minutes and launch radiation detection aircraft.

Seoul on Thursday also ordered all new atomic power plants in the country to be designed to resist an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude.

Meanwhile, Singaporean media quoted the Ministry of Trade and Industry as saying on Thursday that safety is one of the key issues being studied by Singapore as it considers the option of nuclear energy.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had identified nuclear power as an option Singapore "cannot afford to dismiss," but he also said that safety would be an important consideration and that Singapore is learning from the experience of other countries.

The Straits Times newspaper quoted experts as saying that events in Japan were unlikely to derail a pre-feasibility study that Singapore is working on.

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