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Nuke Chief Pledges No More Accident As Japan Remembers Tsunami Victims

The head of Japan's nuclear watchdog on Monday promised to do all what he could to prevent another nuclear accident like the one that wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi plant resulting in massive radiation leak.

Addressing employees of the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident, Shun-ichi Tanaka read out an e-mail from a school principal in Namie town of Fukushima prefecture whose residents were not allowed to return to the town since the 2011 disaster because of high radiation levels.

He said children of the town had not seen their homes in two years, and reminded his staff about the hardships that the survivors still faced. He vowed that NRA would give more importance to people's health and the environment, Japan's NHK broadcaster reported.

NRA has been conducting surveys around the country to confirm the geological soundness of nuclear plant sites, and has also been drawing up new safety standards mandatory for all nuclear power plants.

Meanwhile, the Japanese capital witnessed a major anti-nuclear protest on Sunday, with the participants marching from a park in central Tokyo to the government office district calling for scrapping nuclear plants.

The rally was organized by a civic group that holds weekly demonstrations every Friday in front of the Prime Minister's office and the Diet (Parliament). The group's representatives met former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other officials near the Diet building. Kan was the Premier when the Fukushima accident occurred.

They voiced their opposition to the resumption of nuclear power generation and demanded the closure of all nuclear plants in Japan. Most of Japan's 50-odd nuclear reactors were remaining offline since the Fukushima nuclear fiasco.

People in the country's northeast gathered on Monday to mourn the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region besides knocking out the Fukushima nuclear plant that sent out radiation contaminating the area around the plant, More than 160,000 residents were evacuated from a 30-kilometer radius of the stricken plant operated by the Tokyo Electrical Power Company (TEPCO).

In a former coastal community in Miyagi prefecture, people braved snow to visit a cenotaph built on a beach to offer prayers for the dead.

Tsunami waves triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake submerged coastal areas from northeastern Japan to the Kanto region, leaving more than 20,000 people dead or missing.

The victims were remembered at a memorial organized by the government in Tokyo. Participants observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. -- the exact moment the earthquake struck.

About 315,000 people were still living in temporary housing even after two years of the tragedy as schemes for construction of 23,000 public housing units in eight prefectures remained incomplete.

Work to decontaminate buildings that were affected by radiation from the accident at the Fukushima plant has also been delayed. Local municipalities have only managed to remove radiation from 19.7 percent of about 179,000 households. Government statistics also show a significant population decline in the hardest hit areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

by RTT Staff Writer

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