VOL. NO XXVII (48) November 26, 2011
IAEA’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety
The most important single item for discussion after the last General Conference was the serious nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held its 55th General Conference at Vienna from September 19 to 23, this year. Over 3000 delegates from Member States participated. The most important single item for discussion after the last General Conference was the serious nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
“This caused deep public anxiety throughout the world and damaged confidence in nuclear power”, IAEA’s Director General (DG) Yukia Amano stated in his opening address to the conference.
The General Conference endorsed the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety which, its Board of Governors, approved in the week prior to the General Conference 2011.
The Director General sought firm and sustained commitment from all Member States for the full implementation of the Action Plan which emerged from the decision taken at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety held by IAEA at Vienna from 20-24 June 2011.
It contains virtually all the elements needed to enhance nuclear safety worldwide. The plan asks the Member States to undertake assessment of the safety vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants in the light of lessons learned to date from the accident and to strengthen IAEA peer reviews in order to maximize the benefits to Member States.
They must strengthen emergency preparedness and response as well as the effectiveness of national regulatory bodies. The plan gives equal importance to strengthening the effectiveness of operating organizations with respect to nuclear safety
The plan asks the Member States to review and strengthen IAEA Safety Standards and improve their implementation and to improve the effectiveness of the international legal framework. Member States planning to embark on a nuclear power programme are asked to create an appropriate nuclear infrastructure based on IAEA Safety Standards and other relevant guidance; the action plan expects the IAEA Secretariat to provide assistance as may be requested
The plan proposed that the Member States with nuclear power programmes and those planning to embark on a programme should strengthen, develop, maintain and implement their capacity building programmes which include education, training and exercises at the national, regional and international levels; to continuously ensure sufficient and competent human resources necessary to assume their responsibility for safe, responsible and sustainable use of nuclear technologies.
The Member States should ensure the on-going protection of people and the environment from ionizing radiation following a nuclear emergency. They must enhance transparency and effectiveness of communication and improve dissemination of Information.
Relevant stakeholders with the assistance provided by the IAEA. must conduct necessary research and development in nuclear safety, technology and engineering. They may utilize the results of research and development and share them appropriately with all Member States.
“Today, the Agency’s assessment of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is that the reactors are essentially stable. The expectation is that the ‘cold shutdown’ of all the reactors will be achieved as planned. The IAEA will continue to provide every possible assistance to Japan. Continuing full transparency on Japan’s part will also be important.” DG added.
“Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, there was speculation that the expansion in interest in nuclear power seen in recent years could come to an end. However, it is clear that there will, in fact, be continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power in the next two decades, although at a slower rate than in our previous projections. We expect the number of operating nuclear reactors in the world to increase by about 90 by 2030, in our low projection, or by around 350, in our high projection, from the current total of 432 reactors. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, such as China and India” , he said.
On 21 September 2011 Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission & Leader of the Indian delegation addressed the conference.
He expressed India’s deep condolence to the Japanese people for the sufferings in their country due to the terrible twin natural disasters that have struck that country. India also took the opportunity to convey its appreciation of the efforts of the Japanese Government and people in dealing with the consequences of this tragedy.
Dr Banerjee recounted the steps taken by India to ensure safety. “India remains firmly committed to its indigenous nuclear programme and is planning a major expansion of nuclear installed capacity to 20,000 MWe by 2020 and to reach about 60,000 MWe during the early 2030s.” he said.
Dr Banerjee highlighted the measures taken by India shortly after the accident at Fukushima. “Prime Minister of India had underlined that the safety of nuclear power plants is a matter of highest priority for the Government while implementing the national nuclear programme”, he added
“A bill to confer statutory status to the national safety regulatory authority has been introduced in the Parliament. The results of the safety reviews that were mandated by the Government of India have been made public. Several recommendations have already been implemented and a road map is prepared for implementing the other recommendations” he added.
He disclosed that a decision has been taken to invite IAEA missions, namely, Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) and Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), for peer review of safety of nuclear power plants, and of the regulatory system, respectively.
Dr Banerjee spoke of the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership, GCNEP, being set up near New Delhi to pursue studies in the field of Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Nuclear Security, Radiological Safety, and Applications of Radioisotopes and Radiation technologies. MOUs are already signed with USA, Russia and will soon be signed with the IAEA. France has also expressed a desire in signing an MOU.
These actions are in line with the Action Plan of the IAEA. Dr Homi Bhabha, the Founder of the atomic energy programme was personally involved in shaping the activities of the IAEA during its formative years. Indian scientists have been contributing significantly to the IAEA since then.
[Dr K S Parthasarathy is Raja Ramanna Fellow, Department of Atomic Energy]