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2011 in Review: Nuclear Safety Issues Take Centre Stage

Fukushima

The nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan on 11 March, and the ensuing concerns on nuclear safety issues dominated the global nuclear agenda for much of 2011, and gave renewed focus for a strengthened nuclear safety regime. (Photo: G. Verlini/IAEA)

The nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan on 11 March, and the ensuing concerns on nuclear safety issues dominated the global nuclear agenda for much of 2011. For the IAEA, the accident gave renewed focus for a strengthened nuclear safety regime and initiated a number of priority activities to support a wide-ranging Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. At the same time, the IAEA continued with programmes to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for science and development.

The following are some of this year's news highlights as reflected in the pages of IAEA.org:

January 2011

  • The IAEA continued its efforts to strengthen and make more secure the fragile supply chain of a vital medical isotopes by improving the reliability of supplies, reduce proliferation risks and bridge remaining transport issues.
  • A comprehensive review of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) programme for the introduction of nuclear power found that the country understands the long-term commitments and responsibilities.

February

March

  • For the observance of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, the IAEA focuses on the contribution of women working in science; the challenges the Agency face in finding well-qualified women for its professional posts; and its work to interest young women in pursuing careers in science.
  • The United Kingdom signs an agreement to contribute £4 million, or approximately $6.4 million, to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund.
  • On 11 March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented proportions struck Japan, causing massive damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Center (IEC) was activated and liaised with the Japanese authorities to monitor the situation.
  • In a video statement on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, Director General Amano expressed his sincerest condolences for the lives and homes lost.
  • As the severity of the nuclear accident at Fukushima unfolds, the IAEA's Incident Emergency Centre goes into full response mode and publishes updates around the clock. The daily updates and briefings to Member States and media continue until June 2011.
  • The massive volume of traffic to the IAEA's web site brings down its web servers. Service is eventually restored, and prompted extended use of social media, i.e. Twitter and Facebook to bring out updates to a wider public. IAEA Facebook account : Twitter account.
  • The IAEA creates a comprehensive portal page containing news, resources and other information pertinent to the Fukushima Daichi nuclear accident in Japan.
  • On 18 March 2011, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano met then Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other senior officials in Tokyo to discuss the current nuclear safety emergency in Japan.
  • At a special briefing for IAEA Member States on the Fukushima nuclear accident, Director General Yukiya Amano announced that a high-level IAEA Conference on Nuclear Safety will take place in Vienna in June.

April

May

  • A group of international experts under IAEA auspices and led by Mr. Mike Weightman from the UK leaves Vienna for a fact-finding mission to Japan.
  • The World Organization for Animal Health officially announces the global eradication of rinderpest, a highly contagious viral disease afflicting cattle, buffaloes, yaks and several wildlife species, and caused immense livestock losses and crushing economic damage.

June

  • A team of international nuclear safety experts concludes its fact-finding mission to Japan and submits a preliminary assessment of the safety issues linked with the Fukushima nuclear accident.
  • The IAEA Conference on Nuclear Safety adopts a Ministerial Declaration that calls for improvements in global nuclear safety, and requests the Director General to prepare a draft Action Plan to address issues related to nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and response and radiation protection of people and the environment.
  • Malaysia releases the final report of an IAEA expert mission that reviewed radiation safety at the Lynas Project, a rare earth processing facility under construction near Kuantan in Pahang state.

July

August

September

  • The new Safeguards Clean Laboratory Extension, which provides the Department of Safeguards with vastly improved analytical capabilities, is officially opened.
  • A special ceremony held at the Vienna International Centre commemorates the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York.
  • The 55th Annual IAEA General Conference takes place in Vienna with a strong focus on nuclear safety.
  • The achievement of a world free from rinderpest, a highly contagious viral disease afflicting ruminants that caused immense livestock losses and devastating economic damage throughout history, was celebrated at the IAEA's 55th General Conference in Vienna.
  • Experts from around the world gather at the IAEA's Scientific Forum, entitled Water Matters, to discuss and highlight the importance of nuclear techniques in managing water sustainably.
  • Videos produced specifically for the IAEA's Scientific Forum on Water highlight the role of nuclear techniques in water management, as well as pressing water issues in Bangladesh, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Kenya, and the Philippines.
  • The IAEA General Conference approves the Agency's Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.
  • In Monaco, the IAEA Environment Laboratories holds a commemorative event at the Oceanographic Museum to mark its golden anniversary.

October

  • In Beijing China, the need for a deepened parnership between the IAEA and WANO is stressed by Director General Yukiya Amano.
  • The IAEA hosts an International Conference on the Safe and Secure Transport of Radioactive Materials.
  • The IAEA International Remediation Expert Mission concludes its work in Japan, with the final report to be presented to the Japanese Government a month later.

November

December 2011

  • The IAEA implements a technical cooperation project on marine environment following the Fukushima nuclear accident.
  • A statement from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano welcomes the announcement from Japan that the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have achieved a "cold shutdown condition" and are in a stable state.
  • Nuclear techniques are being widely used in the global fight against avian influenza.
  • Support for IAEA's initiative against cancer continues in 2011 with Member States and partner organizations stepping up contributions to the Programme of Action on Cancer Therapy (PACT).

For a full account of these and other stories in 2011, please visit the IAEA.org News Archive.

-- By Iulia Iliut and Rodolfo Quevenco, IAEA Division of Public Information


(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA).