The international community stands with victims of the March natural and nuclear disasters in Japan and intends to pursue stronger atomic safety measures in the wake of the crisis, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday during a trip close to the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Authorities have battled to prevent radioactive contaminants from escaping the six-reactor facility following a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people dead or missing in Japan.
"I came here to express my solidarity, the United Nations' solidarity for the government of Fukushima, and particularly for affected people in Fukushima," Ban said to Yuhei Sato, governor of Japan's Fukushima Prefecture.
"Particularly this Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident has given us great lessons," Ban said. "We need to carefully review to improve our safety and improve our capacity tools in such an emergency response."
Speaking at an evacuation center housing more than 300 people, including former residents of Minamisoma city and the 12-mile exclusion zone around the plant, the U.N. chief said: "You will hang in there." The evacuation site is located in Fukushima city, roughly 40 miles from the nuclear site, the Associated Press reported.
A U.N. General Assembly meeting planned for next month is anticipated to back Ban's demands for stronger atomic accident prevention measures around the world, according to Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power indicated it could adopt a new coolant-insertion procedure for the facility's No. 3 reactor, which has required roughly three times as much water as the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday. A quantity of radioactive fuel in the No. 3 reactor might have lost its shape and settled on a screen-shaped support structure, while nuclear fuel collected in the lower sections of the pressure vessels inside the other reactors, a preliminary examination has determined.
Fuel in the No. 3 reactor might have heated to the point of structural breakdown on a second occasion and penetrated the system's interior pressure vessel, Kyodo News quoted atomic expert Fumiya Tanabe as saying in an analysis.
Elsewhere, insiders said a forthcoming decontamination timeline might seek a 50-percent reduction by March 2013 in the amount of land on which annual radiation exposure levels exceeding 20 millisieverts are legally permissible.
Tokyo's goals, which aim to lay the groundwork for evacuees to again take up residence on their properties, would seek in the "long term" to cut yearly allowable radiation exposure to one millisievert.
Japan's Foreign Ministry should avoid asserting that radioactive contamination does not pose a threat in Japanese foods, insiders on Sunday quoted Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto as saying.