Japan, France call for G20 nuclear regulators meeting
Japan and France pledged Thursday to push for improved international nuclear safety standards as Tokyo struggled to contain an atomic plant disaster caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the chairman of the Group of Eight and Group of 20, said the forums will take up the issue this year, as Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan shares Japan's experience with the rest of the world.
"We must fully understand what happened and what was experienced in Japan," Sarkozy told a joint press conference with Kan.
"We have chosen to use nuclear power. That will not change," he said, calling for strict international safety standards.
Sarkozy also called for a meeting among nuclear safety agencies from G20 member states.
"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 earlier in the day 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 producer behind the US, 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.
At the joint press event with Sarkozy, Kan said Japan stood ready to share its experience with the rest of the world at gatherings of the G8 and G20 and at a June ministerial meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"I feel it is our duty to accurately report to the world our experience with the nuclear accident," Kan said.
Kan declined to clarify the future of Japan's nuclear and energy policies, saying his nation was focused on containing the disaster at Fukushima plant.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the power plant's cooling systems, causing the reactors to overheat, triggering explosions and fires.
Workers have poured water on the reactors, but efforts have so far failed to bring about a cold shutdown, while leading to radioactive leaks, fuelling fears of run-offs into the ocean and soil.
Sarkozy, who arrived in Japan on Thursday, pledged solidarity with victims of the calamity, adding that his visit aimed at offering Japan aid to "help confront this situation".
French nuclear group Areva, whose chief executive 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 over 27,000 people killed or missing.
© 2011 AFP