TOKYO – Japan’s government has vowed to
overhaul nuclear safety standards once its radiation-leaking reactor complex is
under control, admitting that its safeguards were insufficient to protect the
plant against the 11 March tsunami.
The struggle to contain radiation
at the complex has unfolded with near-constant missteps — including two workers
drenched with radioactive water despite wearing supposedly waterproof suits.
The unfolding drama has drawn
increasing criticism of the utility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of
Japan’s preparedness for nuclear crises.
“Our preparedness was not
sufficient,” Edano told reporters. “When the current crisis is over,
we must examine the accident closely and thoroughly review” safety
An investigation found that Tokyo
Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological
history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was
far more likely than they believed.
A massive offshore earthquake
triggered the tsunami that slammed into Japan’s northeast, wiping out towns,
killing thousands of people and knocking out power and backup systems at the
coastal nuclear power plant.
More than 11,000 bodies have been
recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000.
Hundreds of thousands of people remain
homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most
expensive natural disaster on record.
The mission to stabilize the power
plant has been fraught with setbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires,
explosions and radiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete
The plant has been leaking
radiation that has made its way into vegetables, raw milk and tap water as far
away as Tokyo.
Residents within 12 miles of the
plant have been ordered to leave and some nations have banned the imports of
food products from the Fukushima region.
Highly toxic plutonium was the
latest contaminant found seeping into the soil outside the plant, TEPCO said.
Safety officials said the amounts
did not pose a risk to humans, but the finding supports suspicions that
dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods.