Ministers' Declaration Envisions Strengthened Nuclear Safety Regime

Delegates at the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The first day of the five-day Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety concluded with the adoption of a declaration by IAEA Member States.

The declaration called for a number of improvements to global nuclear safety, while stressing the need to receive from Japan and the IAEA a comprehensive and fully transparent assessment of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident to be able to act upon the lessons learned, including a review of the relevant IAEA safety standards, in particular those pertaining to multiple severe hazards.

It also underlined the benefits of strengthened and high quality independent international safety expert assessments, in particular within the established IAEA framework. The Ministers expressed their commitment to strengthening the central role of the IAEA in promoting international cooperation to strengthen global nuclear safety.

The declaration also pointed to the need to improve national, regional and international emergency preparedness and response to nuclear accidents, and called for the IAEA to have a stronger role by promoting and possibly expanding existing IAEA response and assistance capabilities.

Ministers called for increased education and training for nuclear regulators and operators, and underscored the need for a truly global nuclear liability regime.

Finally, the Ministers asked that the Director General prepare and present a report on the Conference and a draft Action Plan. The Action Plan will address relevant issues related to nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and response and radiation protection of people and the environment, as well as the international legal framework. In their Declaration, the Ministers called upon the IAEA Board of Governors to fund the implementation of the Action Plan adequately.

High-level Participation

The conference was opened by its President, Ambassador Antonio Guerreiro of Brazil, who said, "It is incumbent on all of us to take stock of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and to learn the lessons it teaches us as we strive to enhance nuclear safety worldwide."

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's address to the Conference focused on five key areas which contribute to establishing a realistic and enhanced post-Fukushima nuclear safety framework. These included stronger IAEA Safety Standards, more frequent safety reviews at nuclear installations, more independent national nuclear regulation, enhanced global emergency preparedness and an expanded mechanism by which the IAEA receives and disseminates information to include providing analysis and possible scenarios on how a crisis might develop and the associated radiological impact.

A message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was presented by Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament, emphasizing the need for universal responsibility for nuclear safety. "Nuclear safety is widely viewed as a global public good; its success serves the interests of people everywhere, but its failure can lead to disasters that respect no national boundaries." The UN Secretary General noted that a UN system-wide study on the full implications of the Fukushima accident had been launched.

The statement was followed by national statements Ministers and high-level officials.

Working Groups

During the Ministerial Conference, three working groups are discussing the preliminary assessment of the Fukushima accident and actions for safety improvements, emergency preparedness and response, as well as possible ways to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework.

The first working group began discussions on 20 June, in which Chairperson Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations of the United Kingdom, presented the findings from the IAEA expert Mission to Japan, which he led.

Preliminary findings

The expert team made several preliminary findings and identified lessons learned, including: the tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated. Nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies; nuclear regulatory systems should address extreme events adequately, including their periodic review, and should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved; and the Japanese accident demonstrates the value of hardened on-site Emergency Response Centres with adequate provisions for handling all necessary emergency roles, including communications.

Last update: 10 September 2014