Japanese accident offers lessons for world on nuclear safety – UN team

22 June 2011The accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station after the earthquake and tsunami in March offers lessons for the whole world on how to improve nuclear safety, according to the United Nations fact-finding mission that carried out a recent assessment. Last month, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent an international fact-finding mission to Japan to make a preliminary assessment of the safety issues linked with the accident, nearly three months after the disaster which struck on 11 March.The mission’s team leader, Mike Weightman, presented its report today at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, which is being hosted by the IAEA in Vienna, Austria. “We must as a world seek every opportunity to learn lessons from incidents, accidents and extreme events such as what happened at Fukushima,” said Mr. Weightman, the Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations of the United Kingdom. The preliminary conclusions and lessons to be learned have been shared and discussed with Japanese officials and experts. They fall broadly under three areas: external hazards, severe accident management and emergency preparedness.The mission’s report contains 15 conclusions and 16 lessons for the international community to consider so that it can take advantage of the “unique opportunity” created by the Fukushima accident to seek to learn and improve global nuclear safety.“One of the main findings is to never be complacent. We must seek to improve as we go forward,” said Mr. Weightman. The lessons also cover issues such as the basic design basis for plants, making sure they are compatible with the circumstances around them and ensuring that they cover extreme events, as well as making sure they have essential safety equipment that can survive these events and deliver the “prime safety functions of containment, control and cooling,” he added. “For me the essence of nuclear safety in a sustained way is about continuous improvement, which really is the bedrock of nuclear safety,” said Mr. Weightman.At the start of the conference on Monday, participants adopted a declaration calling for stronger national and international measures to ensure the highest and most effective levels of nuclear safety in the wake of the Japanese accident.The declaration added that safety standards should be continuously reviewed, strengthened and implemented as broadly and effectively as possible, and encouraged States with nuclear plants to conduct “comprehensive risk and safety assessments of their nuclear power plants in a transparent manner” in response to the accident in Japan. read more