IAEA meeting draws lessons from Japan nuclear disaster

08:38, June 21, 2011      

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The International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano (L) attend the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2011. The IAEA-organised conference kicked off on Monday to discuss and identify steps that could be taken to strengthen global nuclear safety following the devastating nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan that was crippled by a series of tsunamis and earthquakes in March. (Xinhua/Xu Liang)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) started Monday to convene the biggest-ever international nuclear safety review meeting, with a focus on lessons from Japan's nuclear disaster, the world's worst accident of its kind in 25 years.

"We have a very important task before us, which is to pave the way for a post-Fukushima nuclear safety framework, based on lessons learned from that accident," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in his opening remarks.

Noting that public confidence in the safety of nuclear power has been shaken by Japan's nuclear accident, Amano said "nuclear power will remain important for many countries, so it is imperative that the most stringent safety measures are implemented everywhere."

"IAEA safety standards need to be strengthened, and universally applied," he stressed.

From Monday through Friday, ministers and high-level representatives from IAEA member states will participate in discussions on lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident and debate over future actions for preventing such disasters.

Proposals have been floated by a number of countries over strengthening nuclear safety mechanism. Some have suggested the IAEA's role in nuclear safety issues be expanded.

At heart of the discussions is the final report presented by a team of international experts who have visited Japan's stricken nuclear plant and completed preliminary assessments of the accident.

The report points out that the tsunami hazard for several nuclear sites was underestimated, adding that "nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies."

Different opinions among IAEA member states over specific safety improvement measures have made it difficult for all participants to adopt a common stance. What concrete outcome will emerge from the conference remain to be seen.

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