Japan, Germany to cooperate on nuclear safety

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Japan and Germany on Saturday said they would work together on international nuclear safety standards, while Tokyo promised to thoroughly investigate its ongoing nuclear crisis.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his Japanese counterpart Takeaki Matsumoto met in Tokyo as Japan has struggled to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant three weeks after the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami.

"Importantly, we have to improve the quality and safety of nuclear energy in the world by establishing international safety standards," said the German foreign minister.

"We welcome very much that Japan discloses its disaster information at the highest level of transparency," he said. "That is exactly what is important."

Matsumoto told a joint press conference: "I said to Foreign Minister Westerwelle that, regarding the nuclear plant, Japan has given explanations to the international community with the highest possible transparency."

"I said Japan will thoroughly examine the accident and wants to contribute to the international community by doing so."

The massive earthquake sent a giant tsunami crashing into Japan's northeastern coast on March 11, devastating port cities and leaving more than 27,000 dead or missing and tens of thousands more displaced.

The giant wave knocked out the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering blasts and fires at four of its six reactors, which have since wafted radioactive steam and leaked water into the environment.

After Japan's worst nuclear crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered operators of all the country's 17 reactors to conduct safety checks and to shut down temporarily the seven oldest ones.

On Thursday Japan and France also pledged to push for improved international nuclear safety standards.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first national leader who visited Tokyo after the disaster, said the Group of Eight and Group of 20 will take up the issue this year.

Westerwelle also said the country was ready to provide three more concrete pumps to Japan, which has employed one of the German-made machines to spray water to cool reactors.

A total of five such pumps will be deployed at the plant, he said.

© 2011 AFP

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