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Japan studies flora and fauna near Fukushima plant
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 30, 2012

Japanese scientists are studying how radiation has affected plants and animals living near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, an official said Monday.

Researchers are examining field mice, red pine trees, a certain type of shellfish and other wild flora and fauna in and around the 20 kilometre (12 mile) no-go zone surrounding the plant, an Environment Ministry official said.

"The researchers are studying the impact of high radiation levels on wild animals and plants, examining the appearance, reproductive function and possible abnormalities in chromosomes," said the official.

They will also grow seeds from plant samples and monitor the offspring of animals in the research.

The study began in November and an initial report on the findings is expected in March, he said.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, some 220 kilometres north of Tokyo, suffered blasts and fires after the March 11 quake and tsunami crippled its cooling systems, releasing radiation into the environment.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the area near the plant, many abandoning pets and livestock which have since gone feral.

Parts of the exclusion zone are expected to be reclassified to allow people to move back to their homes over the next few years, but other areas are expected to be uninhabitable for several decades.

UN nuclear agency considering Fukushima office: report
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 29, 2012 - The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog said the agency is considering opening a branch office in Fukushima to monitor efforts to contain the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl, a report said.

The Japanese government has struggled with public trust over nuclear energy since the March 11 disaster and had asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to open an office, which will help share information on the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

"We have told the Japanese government that the IAEA stands ready to cooperate," the agency's chief Yukiya Amano told Kyodo News on Saturday in the Swiss resort of Davos, where the World Economic Forum is being held.

"While the headquarters in Vienna will continue to deal with issues related to the decontamination and disposal of spent nuclear fuels, we'll be able to have close contact."

A press officer for the IAEA in Tokyo, who is accompanying an ongoing mission to Japan, said no firm decision had yet been made, but that the government's request was being given "careful consideration".

The Nikkei newspaper independently reported from Davos the IAEA chief had stated his intention to open a local office.

Fuji News Network also reported Amano, who is Japanese, was intending the office would be opened, saying it could "strengthen communications with people on the spot."

Tokyo wants an international seal of approval for the energy-hungry country's nuclear industry to bolster its faltering efforts at reassuring the public it is safe to resume atomic operations.

The vast majority of Japan's 54 commercial nuclear reactors are offline because popular opposition has prevented them being restarted in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The disaster, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, contaminated the environment and forced tens of thousands of residents around the Fukushima nuclear site, in northeast Japan, to evacuate their homes.

Many still do not know if or when they will be able to return.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, whose parliamentary constituency is in Fukushima, told residents last week that he was pushing for an office after requests from local leaders.

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Radiation fears slow Japan tsunami clear-up
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 27, 2012
Giant piles of debris from Japan's earthquake and tsunami scar the country's once picturesque northeast coast - and the clear-up is hamstrung by fears the rubbish may be contaminated by radiation. Decades-worth of waste was left behind when the waters receded in March last year after claiming more than 19,000 lives. The survivors are desperate to rebuild, but must first get rid of more ... read more

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