France calls for G20 nuclear regulators meeting: Sarkozy

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Thursday for G20 nations' nuclear regulators to meet to discuss international safety standards, in the first visit to quake-hit Japan by a foreign leader.

"We call on the independent authorities of G20 members to meet, if possible in Paris, to define an international nuclear safety standard" for power plants, he said in a speech at the French Embassy in Tokyo.

"It is absolutely abnormal that these international safety standards do not exist," he said, suggesting the Paris meeting could take place as early as May.

France, the world's number two nuclear power, has sent experts to Japan to try to help cool overheating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that have been leaking dangerous radioactive material into the environment.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems, prompting the reactors to overheat, triggering explosions and fires.

Workers have injected and hosed the reactors with water, but efforts have largely failed to lead to a cold shutdown, instead being followed by radiation leaks and fuelling fears of run-offs into the ocean and soil.

Sarkozy arrived in Japan on Thursday in a show of "solidarity" with a nation coming to terms with the impact of a devastating earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear crisis.

Pledging solidarity with victims of the calamity, Sarkozy said his visit was aimed at offering Japan aid to "help confront this situation" as well as the "calm and transparency to address this crisis."

He was due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and members of the French community in Tokyo later Thursday before returning to Paris.

French nuclear group Areva, whose president is also in Tokyo, announced on Thursday it was planning to give extra help to the operator of the stricken plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).

Before his Tokyo visit, Sarkozy left Nanjing in China where he opened a G20 seminar on economic and monetary reform.

Sarkozy is the first foreign leader to visit Japan since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and an ensuing tsunami which devastated swathes of the country's northeast, with around 28,000 people killed or missing.

© 2011 AFP

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