Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) learned at approximately 9 a.m. Vienna
time on September 30 that an apparent criticality accident had occurred
at a fuel conversion plant in Tokaimura.
The IAEA immediately
made contact with the Japanese authorities in order to obtain authoritative
information and to follow the situation closely, which it did through
its Emergency Response Unit - which was established to fulfil the
IAEAs obligations under the relevant international Conventions
- throughout the day and last night as the situation evolved. It
should be noted that the information was provided by Japan on a
voluntary basis and not pursuant to the Convention on Early Notification
of a Nuclear Accident, which in the view of the Japanese authorities
was not triggered. All indications thus far suggest that the accident
was due primarily to human error.
now appears to have been more serious than originally believed.
Some 39 workers at the plant were exposed to radiation, three of
them very seriously. The degree of exposure to the others, as well
as to ten members of the public, is being assessed.
- a chain reaction - continued on and off for some 17 hours until
it was stopped early this morning. Evacuation of families within
350 metres of the perimeter has been implemented. A decision to
shelter the population out to a radius of about 10 kilometres was
in effect until today, but has now been lifted.
The IAEA issued
a series of six status reports to contact points in Member States
and to Permanent Missions here in Vienna giving information as it
became available. The Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, also
offered to send an expert team immediately to Japan but the Japanese
authorities have indicated that it is not necessary at this stage.
If requested, the IAEA stands ready to provide assistance to the
Japanese Government and also to perform an evaluation with the co-operation
of the Japanese authorities once the situation permits.
The IAEA has
been notified that Japan has given a provisional rating for the
accident of level 4 on the IAEAs International
Nuclear Event Scale, which runs from 0 to 7. It has also been
informed that the Japanese authorities at this time are carrying
out measurements of the level of radioactivity in the vicinity of