France says Japan nuclear problem 'worrying'

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

France's industry minister said Monday the risk of meltdown at a Japanese nuclear plant stricken by a huge earthquake was "worrying" and a nuclear disaster could not be ruled out.

"The situation is worrying," minister Eric Besson said on France Inter radio. "It is a serious nuclear accident since there have been radioactive leaks."

"It is not yet a catastrophe," he said, but added: "We absolutely cannot rule that out."

A new explosion hit the ageing Fukushima plant on Monday after the cooling systems were knocked out by Friday's 8.9-magnitude quake and the resulting tsunami.

A first explosion blew apart the building surrounding the plant's number-one reactor on Saturday but the seal around the reactor itself remained intact, officials said. On Monday a blast struck its number-three reactor.

Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said the plant's operator reported the reactor was probably undamaged and there was a low possibility of a major radiation leak at the plant, 250 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Later Monday the cooling system at the number two reactor failed, Jiji Press reported -- the sort of failure that preceded the explosions in the number one and three reactors.

"The disaster would be if the reactor melts down and especially if the seal around the reactor is ruptured," which could lead to the leaking of radiation, Besson said.

Besson and other French ministers held an emergency meeting on Sunday with energy companies and nuclear safety experts to discuss the Japanese crisis. France produces most of its energy from nuclear plants.

© 2011 AFP

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