16 March 2011
On 11 March 2011, Japan experienced a major earthquake followed by a tsunami of cataclysmic magnitude. On behalf of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA), I wish to express my condolences to the Japanese people who are being affected by one of the worst natural disasters of the century.
The combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami have led to the loss of thousands of lives and to the destruction of the main infrastructures in north-eastern Japan, ranging from entire towns and industrial installations to roads, bridges, power lines and water systems. It is with extreme sadness that we have witnessed these events.
In these circumstances, a number of nuclear reactors have been affected and especially the reactors at Fukushima. The OECD/NEA is collecting official information and has offered its assistance to the Japanese authorities.
Confronted by the forces of two natural disasters of extraordinary magnitude, the nuclear reactors appear to have resisted the earthquake and the fission reaction was stopped. However, the cooling systems of the Fukushima reactors were rendered ineffective by external events. At present, the main challenges concern the means to decrease the heat in the Fukushima reactors, the time it will take and the minimisation of radioactive releases.
As the crisis is not over, the causes and consequences of this accident cannot be fully assessed, but the NEA will certainly help in this matter and propose a set of actions in its areas of competence.
Ultimately, my thoughts go to the TEPCO operators and the Japanese authorities who are currently fighting to stabilise the situation with great courage.