March 19, 2011 / 8:15 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Japan raises effort to halt atom crisis-IAEA head

* Too early to say if going in right direction - Amano

* Amano’s adviser says some improvemtns but risks remain

* IAEA to hold emergency meeting on Monday over Japan

(Adds quotes from senior officials)

VIENNA, March 19 (Reuters) - Japan has stepped up efforts to stabilise a stricken nuclear plant but it is still too early to say whether things are going in the right direction, the U.N. atomic agency chief said after an emergency trip to Tokyo.

Amano, a Japanese national, will brief the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board at a special meeting on Monday about the most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

“My impression is that the Japanese side is strengthening (its) activities to overcome, to stabilise the reactors,” Yukiya Amano told reporters at Vienna airport on Saturday.

“I hope that safety, stability will be recovered as soon as possible... But I still don’t think it is time to say that I think they are going in a good direction or not,” he said.

Amano said he had urged Japanese authorities to improve the amount and quality of information they are giving his agency about the state of the tsunami-hit reactors.

“I can assure you all efforts are being deployed,” he said, adding that he had received a clear signal from the government that it would improve communication.

The IAEA has come under fire publicly and privately for failing to provide fast information at the beginning of the crisis to its member states and the public.

The agency had said it can only provide the information Japan gives it. Part of the reason for Amano’s trip to Tokyo was to stress this message.

A team of IAEA experts has stayed in Japan to help authorities monitor radiation levels. It plans to also go to the Fukushima site, Amano said.

The latest data suggest the situation is moving in the right direction, a senior adviser to Amano told a briefing, But it was still too early to rule out a deteriorating as it remained unpredictable.

“There is a risk. The issue is, how big is that risk,” senior IAEA official Graham Andrew said.

“I think as the days go by, and as we see now electricity being connected to those units, the efforts with the water, that that risk is reducing day-by-day.”

“Could we have something unexpected? Most certainly... there are risks it could get worse,” he said.

Another senior agency official voiced cautious optimism about developments and said it would be wrong to compare the Japanese situation to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union.

“There is a big difference between what happened at Chernobyl and what we see today in Japan,” Denis Flory said.

“In Chernobyl you had a high driving force — a high explosion and then a big graphite fire. All that projected a lot radioactivity outside,” he told journalists.

“(In Japan) there is no massive release (of radiation) or a spread around the globe.” (Reporting by Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall, editing by Paul Taylor)

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