The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
The nuclear energy industry is “safer than it was before the Fukushima Daiichi accident” as nuclear energy facility operators around the world continue to upgrade their emergency preparedness and response capabilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its annual report to the United Nations General Assembly.
“Measures have been taken to improve protection against extreme hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and [the IAEA’s] program of expert peer review services is being expanded,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in the report.
Because of Hurricane Sandy, Amano could not personally deliver his annual address on the state of the IAEA at U.N. headquarters in New York, instead submitting it in writing.
Amano said actions taken by the nuclear energy industry worldwide have contributed to the agency’s upbeat assessment on safety, though he noted that “the process of ensuring that the right lessons are learned will continue for many years.”
Amano said that nuclear power will remain a growth area globally despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
“Growth is likely to be slower than we anticipated before the accident,” he said. “But our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years.”
A number of countries building or planning their first nuclear reactors will contribute to the steady growth in nuclear energy, Amano said, enumerating nations that have consulted with the IAEA on their plans. “The United Arab Emirates recently became the first country in 27 years to start building its first nuclear power plant,” Amano said. “Countries as diverse as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Poland and Belarus plan to follow suit.”
Amano discussed the expansion of the agency’s peer review services, which help new entrant nations establish nuclear regulatory regimes and safety cultures. He also provided an overview of what is being done to enhance safety in countries with existing nuclear energy programs.
Among the measures being taken to improve protection against extreme natural hazards, Amano said, “all nuclear power plant operators have been establishing reliable back-up electricity supply in the event of a prolonged blackout.”
He said the IAEA is reviewing its own safety standards to ensure the agency’s guidance incorporates lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Amano said the agency is continuing to work with Japanese authorities, noting the upcoming Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety to be held jointly by the IAEA and the Japanese government in Fukushima prefecture next month. He also said that the agency expects to release a comprehensive report on the accident in 2014.
Amano concluded that the “lasting legacy of the accident will be a much more intense focus on safety.” He added that while the IAEA recognizes the value of international regulatory cooperation, “nuclear safety remains the responsibility of individual countries.”