The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
Member nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency have made “significant progress” in nuclear safety since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the organization’s director general said this week.
Yukiya Amano cited advances in assessments of safety vulnerabilities at nuclear energy facilities, emergency preparedness and response, and enhanced communications among member nations, international organizations and the public.
Speaking to about 700 delegates at the opening of an extraordinary session of the Convention on Nuclear Safety in Vienna, Amano noted the work the agency has done to analyze technical aspects of the accident and encouraged member nations to work cooperatively to maximize lessons learned.
“The accident may have faded from international headlines but it is essential that all of us—member states, the IAEA and other key stakeholders—maintain our sense of urgency. Much work remains to be done and we must not relax our guard,” Amano said.
Li Ganjie of China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration, the president of the meeting, said that nuclear safety “must know no boundaries.”
“Without nuclear safety there can be no nuclear power development,” he said.
In a report issued this week, the IAEA noted that the Fukushima accident has slowed global nuclear growth; but with many facilities under construction or in the planning stage, use of nuclear energy will continue to grow. The agency estimates that nuclear energy could increase by as much as 100 percent by 2030, with the bulk of the growth occurring in Asia, particularly in China and India.
The Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) was negotiated after the Chernobyl nuclear accident at a series of expert-level meetings from 1992 to 1994 and became effective in1996. Its role is to set international safety benchmarks to which member nations with nuclear power plants subscribe voluntarily. The IAEA convenes and prepares for the meetings.
The CNS normally holds review meetings every three years. This week’s meeting was called on an extraordinary basis following the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
The deputy director general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Shinichi Kuroki, told the conference that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are “being cooled off in a stable manner” and that emissions of radioactive materials have been contained. However, he said decommissioning the reactors would pose technical challenges to the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The U.S. delegation to the meeting presented its national report describing actions taken and planned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear energy industry to enhance safety. It contains sections developed by the NRC and by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations in cooperation with NEI and describes how the U.S. nuclear energy industry’s response is founded on decades of continual safety improvements. Jim Scarola, NEI executive director and Fukushima Response Steering Committee chairman, and INPO Senior Vice President Bill Webster represented the U.S. industry.
Participants are expected to identify safety issues in six areas that will be the focus of national efforts and reports at the next CNS review meeting in 2014. Working groups will discuss external events, design issues, severe accident management and recovery, national systems for regulation, emergency response and post-accident management, and international cooperation.