High-level UN meeting in June will urge political will on nuclear safety

30 March 2011
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

The high-level conference that the United Nations global nuclear safety watchdog is hosting in June will address the political impact of the Japanese power plant crisis, and not just its technical aspects, the agency’s chief said today.

“That’s why I would like to have the presence of political leaders,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano told a news briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, announcing that he had sent invitations today to the prime ministers and foreign ministers of all 151 IAEA Member States.

“But at the same time it (the meeting) is closely related to the technical aspect. We need to address both aspects,” he said, calling the situation still “very serious” at the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant that has been spewing radioactive contamination into the environment since 11 March.

The conference will be held from 20 to 24 June in Vienna at ministerial level. Starting on Monday, the Japanese crisis will also be discussed at a Vienna meeting of Member States of the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), a legally binding international instrument borne out of the Chernobyl nuclear accident 25 years ago, for which IAEA provides the secretariat.

The CNS, which has more than 60 contracting parties, aims to promote nuclear safety, safety culture, safety management and knowledge sharing among current and future nuclear power States. A seminar will be held on the sidelines of this meeting to provide a forum for the wider IAEA membership.

Mr. Amano said the June conference would provide “a preliminary assessment and a preliminary review of the safety standard in light of this accident... It is not just backward-looking but it should be forward-looking.”

Asked for an assessment of the current stumbling blocks the Japanese are facing in their efforts to overcome the Fukushima crisis, he replied: “The situation continues to be very serious and the effort to overcome this crisis is increasing.

“At the same time they encounter difficulties like the existence of water or high level of radiation. There has been also some progress. I really hope that the efforts by the emergency workers would lead to the stabilization of the reactors and this crisis situation.”

Several UN Messengers of Peace, including the Japanese violinist Midori Goto and the United States actor Michael Douglas, have recorded public service announcements (PSAs) in which they express their solidarity for the people of Japan in the wake of the disaster.

“I want to reach out to you, the people of Japan, from the other side of the world,” Mr. Douglas said in his message. “I want you to know that you are not alone, that you are in my thoughts, and the thoughts of people everywhere, as you work to rebuild your lives following the tragic events of 11 March. We are standing by your side, and the international community is ready to help.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Princess Firyal of Jordan, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have also recorded messages of support.


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