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Atomic power to grow despite Fukushima: IAEA head

world Updated: Jul 26, 2011 10:50 IST

The head of the UN atomic watchdog said on Tuesday that nuclear power will keep growing in the world despite the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, which he visited on Monday.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was speaking after meeting Japan's prime minister Naoto Kan, who has advocated a phase-out of nuclear power in the quake-prone nation.

"It is certain that the number of nuclear reactors will increase, even if not as quickly as before," Amano, a Japanese former senior diplomat, said after his meeting the centre-left premier in Tokyo.

"Some countries, including Germany, have reviewed their nuclear energy policy, but many other countries believe they need nuclear reactors to tackle problems such as global warming," he told reporters.

"Therefore, securing safety is more important than anything." Amano, who visited the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant on Monday, said he affirmed to Kan that the international nuclear body will help the disaster-hit country bring the atomic power plant under control.

The Fukushima plant was battered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, suffered meltdowns and explosions in the days that followed, and continues to release radioactive material into the environment.

"I told the prime minister that the IAEA can help Japan because we have knowledge and experience on decontamination and the management of melted or spent nuclear fuel," he said.

Japan and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) are trying to bring the plant's reactors to stable "cold shutdown" by January.

Kan has also announced "stress tests," modelled on a similar programme in the European Union, for all nuclear reactors in Japan. The majority of the nation's 54 reactors are currently offline for safety checks.

"I think it's very good that countries check the safety of nuclear generation after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant," said Amano.

"It would be good if the IAEA could review such safety inspections internationally."