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Published on March 17, 2011
Statement by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, at the Council of Ministers’ meeting

Paris, March 16, 2011

The earthquake that struck Japan last Friday, followed by a tsunami of exceptional violence, is one of the largest natural disasters in the past 50 years. It caused an extremely serious nuclear accident that is affecting the reactors at the Fukushima plant and posing a new threat to the archipelago.

First and foremost, my thoughts go out to the Japanese people who are facing this situation with courage, calm and determination. In this ordeal, France and the French stand in full solidarity with the Japanese people and government.

Our first duty is therefore to help the Japanese. 114 members of the sécurité civile [French emergency services] are already in Japan to help the victims of this catastrophe. Materials to assist those rendered homeless will be delivered in the coming hours at the request of the Japanese authorities. France remains at their disposal to provide all necessary technical and human assistance. In particular, we have offered to provide radiation protection and nuclear safety materials.

We are also directing our attention toward our fellow citizens living in Japan. We have advised those with no obligation to remain in Tokyo to return to France or head towards the southern part of the island. We advise those who opt to remain in Tokyo to comply strictly with the instructions issued by the Japanese authorities.

Our compatriots, distressed by this tragedy, which has struck a great nation and great friend, are also concerned about the consequences the serious accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant could have for France and her overseas territories. They want to be fully informed. We must therefore maintain total transparency.

The agencies responsible for nuclear safety and radiation protection quickly mobilized to monitor developments in this accident and anticipate its consequences. The monitoring of radiation has been stepped up in Metropolitan France and her overseas territories; the results are being made available to the public in real time by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

Finally, this accident is raising a certain number of questions throughout the world concerning the safety of nuclear facilities and energy choices. France chose nuclear energy, which continues to be an essential component of her energy independence and the fight against greenhouse gases.

This choice went hand in hand with an unwavering commitment to ensure a very high level of safety for our nuclear facilities.

The technical excellence, rigour, independence and transparency of our security system are recognized worldwide.

I remain convinced that we made the right choices.

Progress in the area of safety must be ongoing, and we must draw conclusions from accidents. The lessons of the Fukushima accident will be learnt through a complete review of the safety systems of our nuclear plants. This work will be made public. The government pledges this. Furthermore, France offers her full support for similar efforts under way at European level.

Indeed, improving security does not stop at our borders. That is why, in line with the objectives France set at the nuclear conference in Paris in March 2010, I want to step up the effort to harmonize and improve security standards at the European and international levels.

Beyond that, energy policy is an essential part of our public debate. Nationally, the government must listen to all players and gather their proposals in order to optimize our energy policy. Internationally, in the G20 framework, France will take the initiative of bringing together the energy and economy ministers in the coming weeks to discuss the major energy options for the world of tomorrow./.

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