Safety checks 'must be improved to prevent another Fukushima'

The world's 440 operating atomic reactors must be given safety checks within the next 18 months in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the head of the UN's nuclear safety agency said yesterday.

Checks by national authorities should then be followed by international inspections, said Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to prevent any repeat of Japan's reactor catastrophe in March, which has prompted a major loss of confidence in nuclear power around the world. Germany and Italy have both signalled that they will pull out of atomic power production.

Opening a ministerial meeting in Vienna on strengthening safety standards after Fukushima, Mr Amano, also a senior Japanese diplomat, said that after Fukushima, "business as usual is not an option". He said: "Thorough and transparent national risk assessments should be made of all nuclear power plants in the world. They should focus on safety margins against extreme natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods. This could be done within 12 to 18 months."

Nuclear safety would remain a national responsibility, he said, and governments would still have the main task of testing, if only in theory, whether reactor systems could withstand various stresses, such as the earthquake and tsunami, which overwhelmed the Fukushima reactors' cooling systems and led to significant radiation leaks into the atmosphere.

But Mr Amano made clear that he wanted the UN agency to play a greater role, and suggested its experts should be allowed to carry out random safety reviews of atomic power plants.

"Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power has been badly shaken," he said in a speech to ministers and regulators from the UN body's 151 member states. "However, nuclear power will remain important for many countries, so it is imperative that the most stringent safety measures are implemented everywhere." At the moment there are no mandatory, international nuclear safety regulations, only IAEA recommendations, which national regulators are in charge of enforcing. While some IAEA member countries at the meeting want any new safety regime to be mandatory, most prefer regulations to remain voluntary. But Mr Amano pointed out that if the IAEA cannot enforce safety standards, those rules will be only as good as the way they are enforced by IAEA nations.

"Even the best safety standards are useless unless they are actually implemented," he said.

As it was "not a realistic proposition" for the IAEA to review all the world's 440 working nuclear reactors in just a few years, Mr Amano said he was proposing a review system "based on random selection".



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker - Learning Difficulties

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading and growing provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones