called for new global nuclear rules as Japan’s atomic crisis reached three
weeks with widening radiation from its crippled power plant but scant hope of a
President Nicolas Sarkozy — whose
nation is the most nuclear-dependent in the world — paid a quick visit to
Tokyo to show support and also propose a global conference in France for May to
fix new international atomic regulations.
“We must look at this coldly
so that such a catastrophe never occurs again,” said Sarkozy, who chairs
the Group of 20 bloc of nations, during his brief stopover.
It was the first visit by a foreign
leader since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami battered north Japan, leaving
nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and damage that may top $300 billion.
Illustrating the gravity of the
problem, radioactive iodine 131 was found in ground water near No.1 reactor of
Fukushima Daiichi complex, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.
“Radioactive materials in the
air could have come down to the earth’s surface and they could have seeped into
the ground due to rainfall,” a company spokesman said.
Radiation in water at an
underground tunnel near another reactor of the plant had also been found more
than 10,000 times above the normal level of water in reactors, Kyodo news
agency quoted TEPCO as saying.
Radioactive cesium had appeared in
beef from the area, Kyodo added.
Worryingly, the source of the leak
More than 70,000 people have been
evacuated from the 20-km ring.
Another 136,000 who live in a
6-mile band beyond that have been encouraged to leave or to stay indoors.
The U.N. atomic agency IAEA said
radiation at a village 25 miles away exceeded a criterion for evacuation.