Tokyo (AFP) May 25, 2011
A team of foreign inspectors due to visit Japan's stricken Fukushima plant began questioning officials Wednesday as part of a fact-finding mission on the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.
The delegation, including six specialists from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tokyo on Monday on a 10-day visit aimed at learning lessons for the future "on behalf of the world" from the crisis.
"We will come to our best judgement without fear or favour from anybody," mission chief Mike Weightman told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.
"We are gathering information. We will have more discussions over the weekend" after visiting the Fukushima Daiichi plant, he said.
"Then we will seek to bring all of the information together to see what lessens we can learn on the world basis," he said.
Weightman, chief inspector of nuclear installations in Britain, said the mission would report its findings to an IAEA ministerial-level conference in Vienna in late June.
The 18-member team is made up of experts from 12 countries including the United States, China, Russia and South Korea.
On Friday the team is scheduled to inspect the plant, which was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and has leaked high levels of radiation into the environment with meltdowns reported in three reactors.
While in Japan, the experts will also tour a nearby nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daini, and meet officials from various branches of government and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
On June 1, the team will outline a report on the accident to the Japanese government.
Weightman said he was happy so far with the level of cooperation his team had received from Japanese officials.
"We have full cooperation and access to information. Whatever questions we ask, there are answers," he said.
"We will come to our own views on information we seek. We seek to learn lessons on behalf of the world," he said.
Nobuaki Terasaka, chief of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, pledged steady work to alleviate the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi.
"We are working so that we will be able to move steadily from the current emergency measures to well-planned, stable measures" to cope with the situation, he said during his meeting with the IAEA team earlier in the day.
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The operator of Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant on Tuesday said it believed fuel had partially melted inside three reactors, as long suspected by experts. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said new readings on water gauges indicated that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the containment vessels of units two and three, matching its earlier assessment of unit one. ... read more
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