UN atomic watchdog experts arrive in Japan
Tokyo (AFP) May 23, 2011
A team of specialists from the UN atomic watchdog arrived in Japan on Monday to join other international experts investigating Japan's nuclear crisis.
A six-strong delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Tokyo's Narita airport from Vienna in preparation for a fact-finding mission from May 24 to June 2.
In all, a 20-member mission will compile a report on the emergency to be presented to IAEA member states next month at a ministerial-level conference in Vienna.
Tokyo has said the IAEA team is likely to visit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and has leaked high levels of radiation into the environment.
But Jim Lyons, director of the IAEA's division of nuclear installation safety, said the itinerary was not finalised.
"We are going to be mostly in Tokyo but I think we're going to try to visit the site," Lyons told reporters ahead of their departure from Vienna. "That's the plan."
Asked which other sites the experts would visit, he replied: "I don't know. There are a lot of negotiations going on to determine where we can go."
The IAEA announced last week the mission, headed by Mike Weightman, chief inspector of nuclear installations in Britain, would comprise 20 experts from 12 different countries.
Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), which runs the power plant, forecast later in the day that the planned construction of a system to treat radioactive water from the reactors was unlikely to be completed until mid-June.
TEPCO has asked French nuclear group Areva to set up the system, which is designed to remove radioactive particles from the water and is a key step to repairing cooling systems and preventing further leakage of radioactive water.
Contaminated water has spilled into the Pacific while engineers have been battling to bring the plant into stable "cold shutdown", which is expected to happen some time between October and January.
earlier related report
TEPCO posted a record $15 billion loss for the financial year ended March and its under-fire president resigned to take responsibility for the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.
Shares in the utility closed at 334 yen, down nearly 85 percent since the day before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering reactor meltdowns.
The firm posted an annual net loss of 1.247 trillion yen ($15 billion), the biggest ever for a non-financial Japanese firm. The company did not give an earnings forecast for the current financial year.
It warned the "significant deterioration" in its financial position "raises serious uncertainty" about its ability to continue as a going concern.
It faces huge costs from damage to facilities as well as in procuring replacement fossil fuels on top of compensation claims that some analysts estimate to be as high as 10 trillion yen.
"The company said it has priced in as many costs as possible, but unfortunately, investors do not believe those words so uncertainty remains strong and shares are likely to continue being volatile," a senior portfolio manager at a Japanese asset management firm told Dow Jones Newswires.
The loss for Japan's biggest utility comes amid heavy criticism over its handling of the emergency. The prospect of massive compensation claims prompted the government to devise a rescue plan using public and industry funds, with no ceiling set on payments.
"For TEPCO to pay compensation and to continue operating freely as a corporation, a limit to its damage payments would need to be established," said Nomura Securities analyst Shigeki Matsumoto.
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Tokyo (AFP) May 21, 2011
Leaders of Japan, China and South Korea were to gather in Fukushima City Saturday in a gesture of solidarity over the ongoing nuclear crisis - but with Tokyo's neighbours reportedly concerned by its actions. Ahead of a three-way summit, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak are to visit evacuees who have left their homes near ... read more
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