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Jun 08, 2011

International summit urges stronger nuclear agencies and safety cooperation

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The International Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Safety following the Fukushima accident, held in Paris on Tuesday, has called for the strengthening of the roles and missions of international nuclear agencies.

The meeting, an initiative of French President Nicholas Sarkozy and co-organised by the French presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) countries and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), was attended by representatives of 33 countries, members of the G8 and/or the OECD.

“It appears necessary to reinforce the global role and missions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and in particular the review mechanisms (of the national safety frameworks, of the nuclear facilities) for which it is responsible,” stated the co-chairpersons of the meeting, French Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and NEA director general Luis Echávarri in a release to the media, summing up the conclusions of the participants.

“It is also necessary to reinforce the safety activities of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, working towards greater harmonisation of safety practices,” they added.

Most of the participants agreed that all countries with nuclear facilities should subject them to safety audits or stress tests, which would be based on the preliminary feedback from the Fukushima accident. The aim is to assess their safety and test their ability to handle major incidents.

It was also agreed that it was important for all countries to carry out periodic safety reviews of their nuclear facilities, at each stage of operation, and incorporating all elements of the facility, to ensure that they are functioning properly.

Koscuisko-Morizet asked the IAEA to both look again at its safety standards, taking into consideration the Fukushima accident, and make certain they were correctly implemented.

Furthermore, the G8 requested that the IAEA reconsider its standards for the building and operation of nuclear power plants in seismic zones and take into consideration the effects of climatological events.

In addition, the participating countries gave attention to improving international cooperation in responding to nuclear accidents and incidents, such as creating emergency intervention teams and setting up shared safety and assistance systems.

Crisis management training should be international, to bring together the greatest possible experience, and crisis management procedures should be harmonised, at least at a regional level. It was also suggested that the relevant international conventions be modified.

“We cannot continue to think the way we did before Fukushima,” affirmed Kosciusko-Morizet.

“What we have learned from this disaster, and what we must remember, is that one accident at a nuclear power plant is enough to create grave and irreversible consequences for man and the environment. It is essential to improve cooperation on nuclear safety in the civil sector, on the international level, as it is not yet at the best possible level.”

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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