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Japan stress tests nuclear reactors amid Fukushima crisis

Tests to check on impact of natural disasters as crisis sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami continues at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

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Japanese policemen wearing a protective suits undergo testing for possible nuclear radiation at screening center about 35 kilometers away from Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as they finish their duty inside exclusion zone on April 9, 2011 in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan (Athit Perawongmetha/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan will stress test each of its nuclear reactors in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Trade, Economy and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said Wednesday that the tests are designed to give "a further sense of security among the people" regarding the safety of the power plants, the AFP reports.

CNN reports that Japan's tests will evaluate how the nuclear plants would cope during earthquakes and other natural disasters. Although the government hasn't released details of the tests, it is thought they will be modeled on the stress tests announced by the EU recently.

The EU is to test 143 nuclear power facilities across its member states. Its tests are to encompass natural disasters as well as man-made ones such as terrorist attacks and place crashes.

In the wake of the Fukushima crisis, Germany announced it would completely stop producing nuclear power by 2022.

One of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's former special advisers on the nuclear accident has warned that Japan should focus on reducing its dependence on nuclear energy, rather than looking into cutting it completely. Sumio Mabuchi told the Asahi Shimbun that "it is not in Japan's best interest to give up a certain energy source voluntarily because the country has limited resources."

Of Japan's 54 commercial nuclear reactors, just 19 are still in operation, due to plants being suspended or shut down because of the earthquake, according to Reuters. This sector had provided 30 per cent of the country's energy supply.

Power was cut to the cooling system of the Fukushima plant by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the major tsunami which followed. Crews have been working to bring completely cool down the plant ever since, and authorities have set a deadline of the January 2012 by which to bring the plant to a cold shutdown.

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently investigated the crisis and found that Japan had underestimated the danger posed by tsunamis. The plant was designed to withstand waves of 5.7 meters in height, but was actually struck by waves over 14 meters in height during the March tsunami.   

The IAEA did say that Japan's response to the crisis was "exemplary".

Kyodo and the Japan Times report that the government has approved a second emergency budget of ¥2 trillion ($24.7 billion) to help support the earthquake relief and recovery operations. It will also be used to fund health checks on people who may have been affected by the Fukushima crisis.

More Global Post coverage of Japan's nuclear crisis: Fukushima: suffering the stigma of nuclear crisis

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/110706/japan-stress-tests-nuclear-reactor-fukushima-tsunami