UN nuclear experts began reviewing tests from Japan to prove the safety of its nuclear reactors today. The team of 10 from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be in Japan through the end of the month.
"We are conducting a review that they (the Japanese government) requested of their methodology and approach for conducting comprehensive safety assessments or stress tests," James Lyons, the leader of the IAEA team, told reporters.
Emergency preparation will be critical. According to the government's forecast, there is a 70 percent chance of a magnitude-7 quake (Fukushima was a magnitude-9 quake) hitting Tokyo over the next four years, and a 98 percent over 30 years. The government has also asked local authorities within a 30-km radius of nuclear plants to draw up detailed evacuation and emergency plans in the event of another meltdown.
"The March nuclear disaster has exposed serious flaws in communication between the central and local governments," Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of nuclear disasters, told the Wall Street Journal.
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Only five of Japan's 54 reactors remain in operation today as many regional governments hosting nuclear plants refuse to restart them. Despite public anxiety, Tokyo fears a power crunch and hopes the tests will help encourage local governments to reconsider.
The idea of restarting nuclear reactors in the country, however, is already spurring protest. A group of citizens Wednesday delayed a hearing for hours at the trade ministry where stress tests for two reactors were being presented.
The mission of the IAEA will be strictly to help identify safety procedures and boost reactors' resilience to natural disasters. Whether or not the government chooses to restart the reactors is entirely up to the Japanese government.