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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders