Policy focuses on natural disasters

IAEA to call for nuclear crisis team

Kyodo

The International Atomic Energy Agency will call on its members to establish an emergency team to respond to major nuclear accidents worldwide, part of an agency plan to enhance nuclear safety, according to a draft obtained Tuesday.

The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog also plans to dispatch safety investigators within three years to all member countries who operate nuclear power plants, following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, according to the draft.

The document is scheduled to be approved by a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors to be held Monday to Sept. 16.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, has said the plan, which was drawn up after a June ministerial meeting on boosting nuclear safety, will focus in particular on such contingencies as natural disasters and power blackouts.

A progress report on the plan will be delivered at an IAEA board meeting and general conference to be held in Vienna in September 2012.

The 12-point draft plan urges member countries to consider establishing “national rapid response teams that could also be made available internationally.” The policy apparently reflects failings in the international support system exposed by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

It calls on nations with nuclear plants to accept an IAEA safety investigation team at least once during the next three years and host such missions by the agency on a regular basis thereafter.

The plan also requests that members with nuclear plants host an IAEA team to assess their national regulatory framework and accept a followup mission within three years of the team’s visit.

The draft encourages members to join and effectively implement international conventions on compensation for cross-border damage incurred by major nuclear accidents.

Member states are asked to work toward “establishing a global nuclear liability regime with a view to providing appropriate compensation for nuclear damage.”

During the June ministerial conference, Amano unveiled his plan to conduct snap safety inspections in countries with nuclear power plants. It would have covered about 40 plants, or about 10 percent of the world’s total, over a period of three years.

But this plan has been watered down by opposition from some member countries, including those planning to build their first nuclear power plants. They regard Amano’s plan as too stringent, and the final draft of the plan specifies that IAEA inspections will be “voluntarily” accepted by member states.

An agency source said the draft of the plan has adopted moderate wording to win approval from member countries but would greatly enhance steps to ensure nuclear safety as compared with pre-Fukushima measures.

The paper also says countries planning to introduce nuclear power generation should voluntarily accept experts who will check the design of their plants.