International Atomic Energy Agency Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Emergency, 19 March 2011 (14:00 UTC)

Vienna, Austria–(ENEWSPF)–19 March 2011 – 14:00 UTC.  On Saturday, 19 March 2011, Graham Andrew, Special Adviser to the IAEA Director General on Scientific and Technical Affairs, briefed both Member States and the media on the current status of nuclear safety in Japan. His opening remarks, which he delivered at 14:00 UTC at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, are provided below:

1. Current Situation

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants is similar to that which I described yesterday.

Efforts to restore electrical power to the site continue. It is hoped that power will be restored to Unit 2 today, which will then act as a hub for restoring power to Unit 1. However, we do not know if the water pumps have been damaged and if they will work when power is restored.

Seawater is still being injected into the reactor pressure vessels of Units 1 and 2 and additional fire trucks have arrived, reinforcing the operation to spray water into the Unit 3 reactor building.

We still lack reliable validated data on water levels and temperatures at the spent fuel pools at Units 3 and 4.

Temperatures at the spent fuel pools in Units 5 and 6 have risen in the past few days but this does not give rise to immediate concern. Water continues to be circulated within the reactor pressure vessels and the spent fuel ponds at both units.

A second diesel generator is providing power for cooling at Units 5 and 6. We have been informed that holes have been made in the roof of the reactor building at Units 5 and 6 to avoid the risk of a hydrogen explosion.

2. Radiation Monitoring

Radiation levels in major Japanese cities have not changed significantly since yesterday.

The IAEA radiation monitoring team took measurements at seven different locations in Tokyo and in the Kanagawa and Chiba Prefectures. Dose rates were well below those which are dangerous to human health.

The monitoring team are now on their way to Aizu Wakamatsu City, which is 97 km west of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. They have just provided initial measurements from three additional locations.

Measurements made by Japan in a number of locations have shown the presence of radionuclides – ie isotopes such as Iodine-131 and Caesium-137 – on the ground.

This has implications for food and agriculture in affected areas. The IAEA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are consulting with the Japanese authorities on measures being taken in these areas related to food and agriculture.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare informed the Agency that radiation levels exceeding legal limits had been detected in milk produced in the Fukushima area and in certain vegetables in Ibaraki. The Ministry has requested an investigation into the possible stop of sales of food products from the Fukushima Prefecture.

We now have continuous online access to data from CTBTO radionuclide monitoring stations, which is being evaluated by Agency dosimetry specialists.

As far as the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is concerned, there is no record of any incidents or radiation releases at the site. Present elevated radiation levels at the Daini site are attributed by Japan to events at the Daiichi nuclear power plant.

3. Agency Activities

The Director General has left Tokyo for Vienna after meetings with senior government leaders and officials from the plant operator TEPCO.

As you know, he plans to brief the Board of Governors on Monday on the outcome of his trip.

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