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Visit to Japan

Published on April 4, 2011
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, to the French community

Tokyo, March 31, 2011



Since the first day of the earthquake, France expressed her great solidarity and her desire to help the Japanese people. I said it to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

We sent sécurité civile [emergency services] rescue workers to Sendai, a city particularly hard-hit by the tsunami.

Today, even as the scale of the disaster is gradually being revealed, a new danger threatens: that of the nuclear accident. In the face of this situation, we must show a great sense of responsibility.

To help the Japanese technicians working day and night at the Fukushima power station, France, along with the CEA [Atomic Energy Commission] and French companies, has already supplied technical and protection equipment. I shall shortly have an opportunity to tell the Prime Minister that France is ready to take still more action. (…)

In Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet’s presence – thank you for being here – I want to speak first of all, with total transparency, about the nuclear situation in Japan. It’s my duty to tell you the truth: this situation is critical, very unstable and unfortunately long-lasting. You should expect to endure this situation for several more weeks, if not several months. What must you do? It’s not for me to tell you. Each of you must decide according to your heart and your conscience, according to your family situation and professional obligations. I know how much expatriates’ situations vary, from those who have built their lives in Japan to those who have come here in the knowledge that they would soon be summoned elsewhere.

To help clarify your decisions, be aware that the French authorities are there, alongside the Japanese authorities, to provide you with reliable information. I’ve called upon the expertise of the CEA’s scientists, of the Nuclear Safety Authority [ASN] and of the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), which has also sent an expert to Japan. All – I repeat, all – of them agree that, in the current situation, living in Tokyo and its surrounding region does not constitute any real risk to the population’s health. Of course we’re remaining vigilant, in coordination with the Japanese authorities, and will alert you if we believe there is any risk. It’s my duty to you to be transparent. I shall be. (…)


The situation in Fukushima is arousing a very great deal of debate around the world and of course in France. This isn’t a time for disputes, abuse or hasty choices. Those only demonstrate one thing: a lack of composure. In these situations, we must display composure. France must be equal to her responsibilities as a country that has opted for nuclear energy.

For France, civil nuclear energy is an essential element of her energy independence and the fight against greenhouse gases. This choice goes hand in hand with an absolute insistence on the safety of our nuclear facilities, an insistence whose stringency the whole world recognizes. France will participate fully in steps to check the safety of her nuclear plants, in the framework of the European initiative. At the Paris conference [on civil nuclear energy] in March 2010, France called for an international harmonization of safety rules. I announce to you that Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and I will ask the G20 countries’ independent nuclear safety authorities to meet if possible in Paris in May to define a set of international nuclear safety rules. It’s an absolutely aberration that these international safety rules don’t exist, and this Paris meeting to be chaired by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet with the G20 countries’ nuclear safety authorities will effectively lay the groundwork for the IAEA meeting planned in June to define a body of rules. (…)./.

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