As Japanese leaders on Friday promised a shift in focus from crisis-management to reconstruction of the areas devastated by the March 11 temblor and tsunami, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) called for the correction of errors in the estimates of radiation hazards.

NISA reprimanded the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which owns and is responsible for crisis-management at the quake-and-tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi atomic energy plant. Earlier, the radioactive contamination of groundwater near the complex was reported by the company.

The latest scare followed a series of announcements about the presence of radioactive substances in air, rainwater, soil, tap water, food and dairy products, and seawater. Those announcements, almost continuously in three weeks since the earthquake and tsunami, were punctuated by the periodic disclosures of various forms and degrees of radiation within the still-unstable power station.

NISA official Hidehiko Nishiyama said in Tokyo on Friday that the “error in the radiation analysis undermines the credibility of Tepco's assessments”. Tepco, he said, “should clearly explain which radioactive-material data from the previous assessments was incorrect and quickly re-do their analysis”. Mr. Nishimaya said a careful analysis of the March 11 seismic data would also be required to assess the quake-and-tsunami-resistant design features of the nuclear reactors.

Next step

In act of political symbolism, Prime Minister Naoto Kan signalled his move for “the next step towards reconstruction” by symbolically shedding the emergency jacket which he began wearing as the natural disasters triggered a radiation crisis.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who did likewise on Friday, said there was “no definitive plan” yet for floating a new agency for economic reconstruction. One of the priorities was to ensure the “stability” of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The evacuation order served on the residents of a 20-km area around the plant might remain in place “for a reasonably long period of time”. Meanwhile, they would be helped to find jobs or resume studies, as the case might be. On whether the government would inject fresh capital to keep Tepco afloat and address the radiation crisis at Fukushima, Mr. Edano said the “menu of options” included this proposal.

In the quake-and-tsunami-hit areas, local officials on Friday began reconstituting shattered institutions in make-shift locations. And, on a lighter side, children, including some evacuees, had their first amusement since the disaster. The attraction was a pair of pandas which China had leased to a Tokyo zoo. These pandas were said to have “experienced” an earthquake in China.

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