IAEA Needs Greater Nuclear Reactor Safety Powers Post-Fukushima

The International Atomic Energy Agency should have a bigger role in enforcing nuclear reactor safety following Japan’s Fukushima disaster, according to the head of the World Energy Council.

“There is a realization in all countries that nuclear safety rules must be revisited,” Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of the 94-country energy advisory body, said in an interview in Paris. “Fukushima could be an accelerator for development of common safety rules and standards.”

An earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of safety. Delegates to the United Nations atomic agency’s ministerial meeting last year failed to agree on proposals to allow the IAEA to carry out random safety checks at plants and on the extent to which nuclear technologies will be shared.

The IAEA should be given “the means and authority” for nuclear reactor safety, design and rules, Gadonneix said. “I think the global community is expecting a shift in the IAEA’s role and would consider it positive.”

About 442 atomic reactors produced 13.5 percent of power worldwide in 2010 with the most located in the U.S., France and Japan. Germany, Italy and Switzerland are withdrawing from atomic energy on safety grounds, while China, India and the United Arab Emirates are pushing ahead with new plants.

Safe Enough

In France, Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, which decides whether French nuclear sites are safe enough to operate, has said such decisions should reside with national watchdogs.

Nuclear safety is “ultimately the responsibility of a national authority,” Akira Omoto, a commissioner at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, said in an interview at a nuclear conference in Paris today. “I would favor an enhanced IAEA role in design standards but not for enforcement of safety. There isn’t agreement on this.”

The World Association of Nuclear Operators, which is based in London, plans to increase the frequency of peer safety reviews of members to every four years from six, bolster the number of experienced safety auditors on the review teams, attribute grades to the findings and make them public, according to Chairman Laurent Stricker.

Establishing an international nuclear safety enforcer “is a dream,” he said in an interview. “The IAEA has a tremendous role to play in harmonizing safety, but within the organization it’s hard to get everyone to speak the same language.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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