IAEA to set up “Fukushima branch” at Tokyo’s request


The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) reportedly plans to open a branch office in Fukushima by the end of this year, and at Tokyo's request.

The office will monitor efforts to contain the world's worst atomic energy accident since Chernobyl, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the head of the UN nuclear watchdog.

Japan has struggled with public trust over the nuclear energy issue since the March 11 disaster, with the vast majority of the country's 54 commercial nuclear reactors still offline because of popular opposition.

Only three of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain in operation after Chugoku Electric Power Co. shut its No. 2 reactor at its Shimane nuclear plant for scheduled maintenance Friday, according to Reuters.

Japan is the world’s third-biggest nuclear power user, which ordinarily draws a third of its energy needs from nuclear sources.

However, just 6.4 percent of the nation’s total nuclear power capacity was in use after the 820-megawatt Chugoku reactor went offline, the news service reported.

The disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in northeast Japan, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, contaminated the environment and forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.

According to AFP:

Tokyo wants an international seal of approval for the energy-hungry country's nuclear industry to bolster its faltering efforts at reassuring the public it is safe to resume atomic operations.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, whose parliamentary constituency is in Fukushima, told residents last week that he was pushing for an office after requests from local leaders.

Meanwhile, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Kyodo News on Saturday in the Swiss resort of Davos, where the World Economic Forum meeting is being held that: "We have told the Japanese government that the IAEA stands ready to cooperate. While the headquarters in Vienna will continue to deal with issues related to the decontamination and disposal of spent nuclear fuels, we'll be able to have close contact [with people in Fukushima by opening a local office]."

The Tokyo Times reports Trade Minister Yukio Edano as saying Friday that despite the shutdowns, Japan might able to avoid power cuts during the peak summer season.

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