No 'business as usual' on nuclear after Fukushima: IAEA

April 4, 2011 by Simon Morgan
A shopper checks mushrooms in Tokyo after the government halted shipments of shiitake mushrooms when abnormal radiation levels were found. The world cannot take a "business as usual" approach to nuclear power in the wake of the disaster in Japan, UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano said Monday.

The world cannot take a "business as usual" approach to nuclear power in the wake of the disaster in Japan, UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano said Monday.

Amano suggested however that not enough was learned from an earlier incident in Japan where another was damaged in an earthquake smaller than the one that caused last month's disaster.

"Thinking retrospectively, the measures taken by the operators as a safety measure (were) not sufficient to prevent this accident," Amano told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting on the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS).

The CNS is a treaty -- currently with 72 signatory countries -- drawn up after the 1986 to ensure the safety of the world's atomic reactors.

Amano said the crisis in Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami "has enormous implications for nuclear power and confronts all of us with a major challenge."

"We cannot take a 'business as usual' approach," he said.

The ageing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was hit by a 14-metre (46-foot) tsunami on March 11, triggering the world's worst since Chernobyl.

It is not the first such incident in quake-prone Japan: in 2007, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant was also damaged in an earthquake.

"That earthquake was much smaller than this one. And this time, the earthquake was followed by a huge tsunami," Amano said.

Members of civic groups hold placards in Tokyo during a rally at the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Sunday. The International Atomic Energy Agency will host a ministerial-level conference on nuclear safety of all its 151 member states from June 20-24 in Vienna to discuss the lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.

"I believe there are certainly ways to avoid the repetition of such an accident and for that purpose we are now thinking collectively and that is why we are preparing a ministerial meeting to launch the process."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to host the conference with its 151 member states from June 20 to 24 to discuss lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.

Li Ganjie of China's National Nuclear Safety Administration agreed that the Fukushima incident "has left an impact on global nuclear power development and has become a major event in nuclear history."

It had triggered "heated discussion on whether we should develop nuclear power."

IAEA chief Amano said that while the immediate priority at Fukushima "is to overcome the crisis and stabilise the reactors ... we must also begin the process of reflection and evaluation."

"The worries of millions of people throughout the world about whether nuclear energy is safe must be taken seriously," he said.

A shopper looks at vegetables at a Tokyo supermarket after the government warned of abnormal radiation levels in products near the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo. The International Atomic Energy Agency has already dispatched expert teams to help monitor radiation release from the damaged reactors and sent two reactor experts to the plant to get first-hand information.

The Vienna-based IAEA, set up in 1957, is responsible for drawing up international safety standards for nuclear power plants, even if it has no powers to legally enforce those standards.

It has already dispatched expert teams to help monitor radiation release from the damaged reactors and sent two reactor experts to the plant to get first-hand information.

Amano said "more needs to be done to strengthen the safety of nuclear power plants so that the risk of a future accident is significantly reduced."

Many countries are reviewing their plans to set up nuclear power programmes in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

But Amano insisted that the basic drivers behind the interest in nuclear power -- which included rising global energy demand, concerns about climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices and energy security -- "have not changed as a result of Fukushima."

He said he was "confident that valuable lessons will be learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident which will result in substantial improvements in nuclear operating safety, regulation and the overall safety culture."

Explore further: IAEA warned Japan over nuclear quake risk: WikiLeaks

Related Stories

IAEA warned Japan over nuclear quake risk: WikiLeaks

March 17, 2011

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Japan two years ago that a strong earthquake could pose a "serious problem" for its nuclear power stations, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

EU to mull 'stress tests' for nuclear plants

March 15, 2011

The European Union will discuss Tuesday whether to conduct "stress tests" on atomic power plants to check their safety in light of Japan's nuclear crisis, a European Commission spokeswoman said.

IAEA worried about radiation in Japan village

March 30, 2011

Radiation levels recorded at a village outside the evacuation zone around the quake-striken Fukushima nuclear plant are above safe levels, the UN atomic watchdog said Wednesday.

GE defends nuclear plant design

March 18, 2011

General Electric defended its 40 year old Mark 1 reactors at the center of Japan's nuclear crisis Friday, saying that early questions about reactor's safety had long been addressed.

Japan nuclear plant firm opens Twitter account

March 17, 2011

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the quake-hit Japanese nuclear reactors, opened an official Twitter account late Thursday, immediately drawing more than 117,000 followers.

US experts unsure about Fukushima situation

March 28, 2011

US experts have expressed uncertainty about the seriousness of the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex, steering clear of speculation whether the core of one of the reactors there had been damaged.

Recommended for you

Startup Pi out to slice the charging cord

September 19, 2017

Silicon Valley youngster Pi on Monday claimed it had developed the world's first wireless charger that does away with cords or mats to charge devices.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
How about simply not building nuclear plants in disaster-prone areas? There is no reason for Germany or other nations not in disaster-prone areas to think this really affects them very much. Much of the US is fine for nuclear plants, just avoid the earthquake-prone west coast, and the hurricane-prone south-east coast. Also, since we haven't been building many new nuclear plants for political reasons, many of the ones operating now are using literally 50 year old technology.
If we take a cold hard look at reality, renewables won't be able to provide the majority of power needed for decades. We should be investing in breeder reactors that can use the U238 waste from older plants as fuel (U238 is 99% of natural uranium, the U235 that most plants burn is a very small percent). We have to deal with this waste anyway, so why not use it instead of letting it sit around? There is enough waste in the US to power it at current consumption levels for hundreds of years.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2011
How about below-ground water reactors or in-sea reactors?
not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
the iaea gets paid by the very industry it regulates. this is totally absurd and part of why nuclear regulation at both domestic and international beauracracy levels is complete garbage.
a change in regulation would start with changing the entire funding mechanism of the IAEA , and prohibit nuclear industry executives and employees, and beneficiaries of debt equity or other benefits from being employed or used AT ALL by the IAEA.

perhaps the IAEA should be renamed as well. it should be staffed with dedicated nuclear industry oversight employees, employees who are prohibited for life from working or benefiting from the nuclear industry revenue stream.

not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
Good point about the poor regulatory structure in the current US government. I think the FDA suffers similar problems since a lot of funding comes from the very people it is supposed to regulate. I wonder how many other agencies have this problem as well?
Here is the link I meant to put with my previous post:
not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
A change in nuclear policy will not change because
nuclear power is big business.

Nuclear power will go on no matter what the public wants.

I will bet though insurance cost for nuclear plants will
go thru the roof.

The cost will be passed onto the consumer starting to
make renewables more cost competitive with nuke power.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
Business can absolutely continue as usual for anyone outside of a fault zone which can produce magnitude 9 quakes and giant walls of water.

Even if a billion people have a knee jerk emotional reaction to something and oppose it on this basis, that doesn't make them correct.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.