March 8, 2014
France calls for world nuclear reforms after Japan crisis
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a reform of global nuclear standards by the end of the year during a first visit by a foreign leader to Japan since the earthquake and tsunami that triggered its atomic disaster.
Group of 20 chairman Sarkozy said France wants to host a meeting of the bloc's nuclear officials in May to fix new norms in the wake of the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan supported the idea.
"In order to avoid recurrence of such an accident, it is our duty to accurately share with the world our experience," he said at a joint news conference.
The world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986 is proving hard to contain and has forced an international re-think of the benefits and safety of nuclear power.
It has also compounded an agonizing moment for the Asian nation after the quake and tsunami left more than 27,500 people dead or missing and caused damage that may top $300 billion.
First data on the economic impact of the March 11 disasters showed manufacturing slumped the most on record this month as factories shut and supply chains were disrupted, especially in the car and technology sectors for which Japan is renowned.
France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, is taking a lead in assisting Japan. As well as Sarkozy's show of solidarity by his personal presence, Paris has flown in experts from state-owned nuclear reactor maker Areva.
"Consider me your employee," Areva Chief Executive Anne Lauvergeon told Japanese officials.
The United States and Germany have weighed in too, offering robots to help repair the damaged nuclear plant.
In a worrying development in Switzerland, two female employees were injured when a parcel bomb exploded in the offices of the local nuclear lobby, police said. It was not known who sent it.
Switzerland has frozen the approvals process for three new nuclear stations pending a safety review after Japan's disaster.
Pressure has been growing on Japan to expand the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant where radiation hit 4,000 times legal limits in nearby sea and hindered the battle to contain the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.
Both the UN nuclear watchdog and Japan's own nuclear safety agency have advised Kan to consider widening the 20-km (12-mile) zone round the plant on the northeast Pacific coast.
High radiation was detected at twice that distance away.Government officials are pleading for Japanese, and the world, to avoid overreaction to what they say are still low-risk levels of radiation away from the plant.