Vital that lessons are learned from Japanese nuclear accident, says UN official

1 November 2011

Nuclear security is an extremely important issue for all countries and it is vital that the right lessons are learned from the accident at the Japanese power plant earlier this year, the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Member States.

Reporting on activities over the past year, Yukiya Amano told the General Assembly that the IAEA has been doing everything it can to help Japan bring the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant under control and to mitigate the consequences of the accident.

Since the accident, which occurred in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, the international community has mobilized to assess and apply lessons learned. It has discussed the issue at numerous forums and taken concrete steps, including the adoption by the IAEA of an action plan to strengthen nuclear safety.

The action plan includes agreement for a “stress test” of nuclear power plants in all countries with active nuclear programmes, the strengthening of the IAEA peer review system on operational safety, and a review of relevant safety standards and conventions.

“The action plan represents a significant step forward,” said Mr. Amano. “It is vital that it is fully implemented in all countries with nuclear power and that the right lessons are learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.”

Despite the accident, he noted, the agency’s latest projection is that the number of operating nuclear reactors in the world will continue to increase steadily in the coming decades, although less rapidly than was anticipated before the accident. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, such as China and India.

The factors contributing to increasing interest in nuclear power have not changed, said Mr. Amano. These include increasing global demand for energy, as well as concerns about climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices and security of energy supply.

Mr. Amano also reported on the agency’s continued safeguards activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran and Syria. He urged Iran to take steps to “establish international confidence” in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, and urged DPRK to fully comply with relevant IAEA and Security Council resolutions.

He announced that the agency will hold a forum in Vienna on 21 and 22 November to consider the relevance to the Middle East of the experience of Africa, the South Pacific, South-East Asia, Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean in establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones.

A UN-sponsored conference is slated to be held next year on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. All States in the region are expected to attend the meeting, which will be hosted by Finland.

Mr. Amano also met today with Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, with whom he exchanged views on the Agency’s work, including its technical cooperation programme, according to a statement issued by the President’s spokesperson.

Mr. Al-Nasser commended Mr. Amano’s leadership, particularly regarding the “prompt and effective” IAEA response during and in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The President also noted that improving disaster prevention and response is one of his key focus areas for the current Assembly session.


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