Fukushima indicates big gaps in world nuclear safety: Ban

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant suggested that there were large gaps in international systems to deal with safety breaches.

Ban also announced a high-level international meeting on the issue in New York on September 22 during the UN General Assembly session.

"Men and women around the world are asking: are we really doing well and all that we can to safeguard the world's people in the case of nuclear accidents?" Ban said at a UN conference on reducing disaster risk in Geneva.

"Recent events suggest that there are large gaps in how societies and the international system think and act about breaches to nuclear safety," he added during a discussion on preparations for nuclear incidents.

The six-reactor nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, triggering the world's worst nuclear accident and radiation leak since Chernobyl in 1986.

Emergency workers struggled for weeks to bring the situation under control.

Japan allowed nearly 100 evacuees from a village near the nuclear plant to briefly return home Tuesday in radiation suits, masks and goggles to pick up personal belongings.

It was to be the first such trip since the government declared a 20-kilometre (12-mile) exclusion zone around the plant.

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will hold a special meeting on the power plant safety issue next month, has come under fire for its handling of the Fukushima accident.

The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Yukiya Amano, said last month that the world could not take a "business as usual" approach to nuclear power following the disaster.

Ban said he would present a five point plan at the meeting in September in New York that would build on the IAEA conference, as well as a UN study on the implications of the Fukushima accident.

"This study will look closely at the emerging nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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