March 30, 2011 / 11:16 AM / 8 years ago

Areva CEO arrives in Japan to help with nuclear crisis

PARIS, March 30 (Reuters) - Areva CEPFi.PA Chief Executive Anne Lauvergeon arrived in Japan on Wednesday, broadening out a French delegation that has flown out to help Tokyo Electric Power bring its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant under control.

The head of the French nuclear reactor maker — one of France’s most powerful female executives — travelled to Tokyo with three French experts in radioactive water contamination.

Two other Areva experts had flown to Japan on Tuesday, after a request for help from Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), an Areva spokeswoman said.

“At the moment the problem which worries TEPCO is water, so we are trying to see, because they are specialists in the treatment of radioactive waste, what they could advocate,” she said. “They are looking at what aid we could bring them.”

Hundreds of engineers have been toiling for nearly three weeks to cool the plant’s reactors and avert a meltdown of fuel rods. While that scenario has receded, highly tainted water has been found in some reactors and in concrete tunnels outside.

Readings have also showed radioactive iodine in the sea off the plant at record levels and radiation has been in tap water in Tokyo and in tiny traces abroad.

The French experts will be based in the Tokyo area and not at the nuclear site.

Their participation could help improve communication on the disaster, which has compounded Japan’s agony after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 28,000 people.

Experts say a lack of information and some inconsistent data have made it hard to understand what is happening at Fukushima, which appears to have moved from a core-meltdown phase to one in which the management of released radioactivity is paramount.

France is the world’s most nuclear-dependent country, producing 75 percent of its power needs from 58 nuclear plants, and selling state-owned Areva’s reactors all over the world.

Lauvergeon’s trip, whose length was yet to be determined and could last several days, comes ahead of a visit to Tokyo by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first foreign leader to arrive since the earthquake. [ID:nLDE72S0MW] (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide)

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