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Stricken Fukushima plant appeals to France for help

Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The operator of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan has asked France for help in tackling the crisis at the plant. France's Industry Minister Eric Besson said he was pleased that Tokyo Electric Power, Tepco, had asked for assistance with the 'extremely critical' situation at Fukushima. 

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Besson said three groups would be involved in providing assistance - French energy giant, EDF, nuclear group Areva and the atomic agency commission.

EDF, which manages France's 58 nuclear reactors,  announced on 18 March that the three groups were set to send Japan 130 tonnes of specialised equipment including robots able to intervene in the case of a nuclear accident. But a spokesman for Besson said Tepco's latest request is a separate issue.

The head of France's nuclear safety agency ASN. says that airborne nulcear contamination has spread well beyond the 30 kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.

Andre-Claude Lacoste told journalists that it would not be surprising to find some contamination well beyond a radius of 100 kilometres.

Last week, the Japanese government asked people still living between 20 and 30 kilometres from the plant to leave voluntarily.

Workers trying to restore systems to cool overheating fuel rods are trying to work around puddles of dangerously radioactive water discovered inside reactor number two. Experts fear that highly-contaminated water could be seeping into the soil or nearby sea.

Lacoste added that only the restoration of the plant's cooling systems and a steady supply of fresh water will likely stabilise the reactors.

 

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