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Fukushima Forces Nuclear Regulators Into ‘Unprecedented’ Review

Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear meltdown is forcing regulators into a broad review of the industry aimed at shoring up public confidence in atomic power.

The Convention on Nuclear Safety, drafted after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, is meeting today in Vienna. Regulators and industry representatives from the 72 countries that have signed the treaty will go over nuclear-safety measures in 10 days of closed-door meetings.

“The worries of millions of people throughout the world about whether nuclear energy is safe must be taken seriously,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said, according to a transcript of his speech. “Rigorous adherence to the most robust international safety standards and full transparency, in good times and bad, are vital for restoring and maintaining public confidence in nuclear power.”

The partial meltdown at Fukushima, where greater public scrutiny may have uncovered decades of falsified safety reports, has changed the way people view international nuclear incidents. Measurement networks showing how radiation plumes move globally, along with commercial satellite imagery and Internet communication, mean the public has more information than ever before about the consequences of nuclear breakdowns.

“Fukushima is unprecedented in the history of the international nuclear industry,” Nuclear Energy Agency Director General Luis Echavarri said today in Vienna. The unfolding crisis at the stricken plant north of Tokyo will probably hurt the nuclear-power industry’s credibility more than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, UBS AG said.

‘Very Serious’

The situation at the reactors remains “very serious,” Amano said, adding that “the immediate priority is to overcome the crisis and stabilize the reactors.”

Nuclear-industry representatives are joining the meeting as part of their national delegations, according to a preliminary list of people registered for the conference. Groups of countries will meet over four days and then present written confidential reports during three more days of private sessions.

“Nuclear safety will become a global focus,” said China’s Li Ganjie, the president of this week’s treaty meeting.’’ International cooperation will definitely be deepened. This review meeting and the peer reviews will play a critical role.’’

The IAEA, which is hosting the meeting, said in a statement by Amano that Fukushima shows that “putting international nuclear experts in touch with each other quickly during a crisis needs to be improved.”

The IAEA dispatched two reactor engineers to the Fukushima on April 1, three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami disabled the plant.

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