Learning to Manage a Severe Nuclear Accident

IAEA Experts' Meeting on Severe Accident Management After Fukushima Concludes

Members of the IAEA fact-finding team in Japan visit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to examine the devastation wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. (Photo: G. Webb/IAEA)

After four days of discussion, the IAEA's International Experts' Meeting (IEM) on Severe Accident Management in the Light of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant concluded its deliberations on 20 March 2014 noting that while much progress has been made there is still more that needs to be done to strengthen the nuclear industry's ability to significantly reduce the impact of a nuclear accident.

Summarizing the IEM's proceedings, Chairman Mohammad Anwar Habib of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Agency, highlighted a number of key areas requiring attention, including a need for "robust" training that takes a "practical approach using realistic training aids."

He highlighted the need for strengthened regulation. "Regulatory authorities should review severe accident management programmes developed by the licensee and strengthen inspection and oversight activities of severe accident management measures."

The issue of instruments installed and used at nuclear facilities was also discussed extensively. Instruments that give nuclear operators information about what's happening inside the reactor - such as pressure, temperature, and reactivity - are crucial during an emergency. The more than 160 participants, representing 48 IAEA Member States and four international organizations, discussed about the different advantages to be gained from using special purpose instruments just for emergencies, over the instruments in regular use during the normal running of the nuclear facility.

Deliberations on the need for effective communication between organizations involved in the response to a nuclear accident also took place. Chairman Habib's summary said, "What is clear from this discussion is that emergency planning needs to allow for organizations to effectively communicate with each other so that a common picture emerges in which every organization has a good understanding of the progression of the events."

And to ensure continuity during an emergency response even if key personnel are unavailable for any reason, it was recommended that "emergency plans and severe accident management strategies explicitly recognize that risk and make provisions to ensure the resilience of the response. For example, this could be achieved in part through cross training and the need for key actions to be confirmed by more than one position."

The IEM discussed how best to address the mitigation of nuclear emergencies and provide necessary assistance, as well as to review lessons learned from past accidents.

The presentations were given by nuclear industry professionals, regulatory representatives, emergency management organizations and technical support organizations from the Member States to provide a broad global view of severe accident management and emergency response in light of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

Last update: 27 October 2014