IAEA seeks enhanced role in nuclear safety

15:16, June 25, 2011      

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Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday highlighted the need to strengthen the agency's role in nuclear safety issues.

"The IAEA plays a central role and is the appropriate international focal point for strengthening the global nuclear safety framework," said a summary statement from an IAEA ministerial conference on drawing lessons from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The summary, released at the end of the conference, outlines some suggestions on how the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog could engage more actively in enhancing global nuclear safety.

Noting that not all member states apply the IAEA safety standards currently, the statement "encouraged" countries to make their own standards consistent with those of the IAEA.

As the details of the Fukushima accident would become clearer over time, the IAEA should review and update its safety standards, to incorporate the lessons from the accident, the statement said.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said during the conference, attended by more than 1,000 delegates from member states, that the IAEA safety standards needed to be strengthened and universally applied.

The proposal has been widely welcomed, and some countries, such as Russia, support making the IAEA standards compulsory.

Other countries, however, have voiced reservations about the Russia-supported suggestion, maintaining the current framework is effective enough.

The IAEA statement also said the agency should conduct more systematic reviews of countries' nuclear regulatory agencies and power reactors.

"It was suggested that, with some reinforcement of its present capabilities, the IAEA could conduct an international safety review of one nuclear power plant in 10 over a period three years," the statement said.

At the opening of the conference on Monday, Amano proposed a review system based on random selection, citing the difficulty of reviewing the world's 440 operating nuclear reactors.

The IAEA statement also stressed the agency should play a bigger role in providing information and analysis on nuclear accidents to the public.

Source: Xinhua
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