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The World

April 20, 2011

Japan mulls limiting access to evacuation zone

(Continued)

TOKYO —

"There is a realization of a need to have a stronger enforcement of the area," said Shikata. "Both the issue of ... strong enforcement of the area and a realization of temporarily going back home is something we have to closely coordinate with local municipalities."

Kan, who will also visit a nuclear crisis management center during his Thursday trip, has been under fire from the opposition for the government's response to the nuclear crises. Edano implied that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. should have been better prepared.

"Aside from the question of whether the accident could have been predicted, there was not sufficient preparation based on an anticipation, and there is no mistake about that," he said. "We urge all nuclear operators to immediately take any possible precaution based on the lesson from the Fukushima nuclear accident, and not wait until details of the accident are examined."

In a step toward restoring the crippled plant's cooling systems, TEPCO has been pumping highly radioactive water from the basement of one of its turbine buildings to a makeshift storage area.

Removal of the first 10,000 metric tons (2.6 million gallons) of 25,000 metric tons (about 6.6 million gallons) of contaminated water that has collected just in the basement of the turbine building at Unit 2 of the plant began Tuesday and is expected to take at least 20 days, nuclear safety officials say. Fully ridding the plant of 70,000 tons (about 18.5 million gallons) of contaminated water in its turbine buildings and nearby trenches could take months.

Still, a senior official at the U.N. nuclear agency suggested the worst of the radiation leaks may be over in the worst nuclear power accident since the 1986 catastrophe in Chernobyl.

The total amount of radiation released is expected to be only a "small increase from what it is today" if "things go as foreseen," said Dennis Flory, a deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

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