IAEA's post-Fukushima progress report

17 August 2012

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it has made "significant progress" in a number of key areas of its 12 point Action Plan on Nuclear Safety - set in motion following last year's accident at Fukushima Daiichi.

The agency, which offers guidance and support to the governments of countries with nuclear power programs, has highlighted improvements made in fields such as: the assessments of plant vulnerabilities; the agency's peer review services; its emergency preparedness and response capabilities; its guidance on new nuclear construction programs; and perhaps most importantly its information sharing procedures.

During the Fukushima nuclear accident, the IAEA served as a key source of official information about developments at the site. The importance of fast and accurate communication was emphasised in multiple sections of the progress report - noted as being "essential for transparency and gaining public trust as well as to help take effective protective measures during an emergency"  To this end the agency has developed the Manual for Official Communications in Incidents and Emergencies which should help countries with the early notification of an incident and aid with information exchange. A new protected website, the Unified System for Information Exchange (USIE), will also aid with the latter.

The agency has issued guidance which should help official spokespeople develop consistent messages both during and after a radiological emergency. It has also organised technical meetings where information on topics such as reactor and used fuel safety, communications best practice and protection against natural disasters have been shared

Safety related recommendations form a major part of the communications that the IAEA produces for its member states. In response to Fukushima, the agency has sought to develop a more comprehensive approach to safety assessments, that now also covers the impacts of extreme natural hazards. Changes have come as a result of an IAEA expert mission to Japan and also from the stress tests carried out by nuclear operators in member states.

As for peer reviews, new modules have been added to the service the IAEA provides for regulators and operators. To boost transparency, the results of reviews conducted within the last decade have been shared on the IAEA website.

A number of steps designed to improve the IAEA's overall effectiveness during an emergency have been completed, including boosting its assistance capabilities, and making speedier and more accurate the provision of vital information during an emergency. The agency has reviewed its capability to perform technical assessments of an accident as it progresses, and has vowed to work more closely with relevant technical communities.  

With nuclear new build either underway or set to take place in many countries - several of which have never undertaken nuclear programs before - the agency has reviewed its guidance in this area. It has also established the Education and Training Review Service to help develop skills to a level consistent with IAEA standards and international good practices

The report noted in finishing that: "Important activities are being and will be carried out in the future in all areas under the action plan. Their full and effective implementation requires joint efforts and full commitment from the secretariat, member states and other stakeholders.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: IAEA, Fukushima response