International Atomic Energy Agency

Mike Weightman tours the Technical Support Center at Fukushima Daiichi

Mike Weightman tours Fukushima Daiichi (Click to enlarge.)

Global Nuclear Industry Takes Steps to Improve Safety at Facilities Worldwide

As a leader in creating and promoting standards for nuclear safety, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spearheaded the global response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. Gathering critical insights into the incident and the response that followed, IAEA leaders visited Japan several times over the past year, including a fact-finding mission to Fukushima Daiichi and two other facilities that were affected by the natural disaster.

NEI spoke with the leader of the mission, Mike Weightman, who is also the United Kingdom‘s Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations, to hear his first-hand account of what he learned on-site at Fukushima and the efforts to improve nuclear safety worldwide.
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Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • NEI has sent to nuclear energy facility managers a set of recommended generic templates for industry responses to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s orders on mitigation strategies, hardened containment vents and used fuel pool instrumentation. Initial responses to the orders are due to the NRC today, 20 days after they were issued March 12. The industry also is preparing requests for proposals from companies interested in operating a network of regional response centers stocked with emergency equipment to respond to severe events at nuclear energy facility sites. The regional response centers are part of the industry’s FLEX strategy. In the meantime, an industry initiative is under way to ensure that all plant operators had placed contracts or procurement orders for the first phase of the FLEX equipment by March 31, 2012.
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Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday approved the issuance of orders and information request letters for the U.S. nuclear industry to implement enhanced safety measures based on lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The orders require industry to establish a mitigation strategy for beyond-design-basis external events as well as enhancements for used fuel pool instrumentation and venting systems for Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors. The letters request information on flooding and seismic hazard re-evaluations, emergency response communications and staffing for accidents involving plants with multiple reactors.
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IAEA's fact-finding team visits Fukushima Daiichi to examine the devastation brought about by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Photo credits: G. Webb/International Atomic Energy Agency

(Click to enlarge.) IAEA's fact-finding team investigates the Fukushima Daiichi site. Photo credits: G. Webb/ IAEA

Nearly a year has passed since the unimaginable happened in Japan: a massive earthquake and tsunami claims the lives of more than 15,000 people and leaves thousands of others homeless; massive devastation occurs in the region’s communities; and an accident unfolds at the local Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. As we reflect on the events that occurred last March 11, the world demands to know: has the global nuclear industry learned and applied the lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi event to make nuclear energy facilities safer than they were before?

Unequivocally, the answer is YES.

While the U.S. nuclear industry pursues a strategy to add another layer of safety to address the major problem encountered in Japan— the loss of power to maintain essential cooling capacity—nuclear safety regulators and plant operators in countries around the world are applying lessons learned from Japan. New safety initiatives are shaping the future of nuclear energy at more than 440 operating reactors worldwide, as well as more than 210 reactors in the licensing and planning stages.
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Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to cover about 17 acres of the seabed near the cooling water intakes of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors with a two-foot-thick mix of cement and clay. TEPCO said the project will prevent radioactive cesium and other materials from washing out to sea. The company said the work should be completed within four months.
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First