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International Experts' Meeting To Discuss Protecting Nuclear Power Plants From Natural Hazards

The IAEA's Real Time Tsunami Forecasting System is now in development and could be used to alert nuclear power plant operators when a Tsunami may arrive and its wave height. (Photo: N. Bekiri/IAEA)

The importance of protecting nuclear power plants (NPPs) from extreme natural hazards remains a priority for the nuclear power industry. In this light, the International Experts' Meeting (IEM) on Protection Against Extreme Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Light of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is being convened by the IAEA under the framework of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.

This meeting takes place in Vienna, Austria from 4 to 7 September 2012. Some 130 experts and government officials from 37 countries, from regulatory bodies, utilities, technical support organizations, academic institutions, vendors and research and development organizations have signed up for the meeting.

Through the course of the week, the IEM will be discussing technical developments and research programmes in site evaluation and nuclear plant safety, particularly as they relate to extreme natural hazards such as earthquake and tsunamis.

The IEM provides an opportunity to share lessons learned from recent extreme natural events, including the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011. This earthquake and associated tsunami affected the Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima Daini, Tokai and Onagawa NPPs in Japan and triggered the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

"The challenge for us all this week is to discuss in detail the implications for nuclear safety from extreme earthquake and tsunamis," said IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety, Denis Flory, in his address to the assembled experts. "We need to identify the lessons learned so far from the Fukushima nuclear accident and identify any necessary actions to extract more lessons in the future."

The Fukushima accident was the first NPP accident to arise from the combined hazards of ground motion and flooding. It highlighted the importance of preparing not only for a single external hazard, but also the combined effect of multiple external hazards, in the safety assessment of NPPs, and the measures for defence in depth.

In his opening address, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy, Alexander Bychkov, also expressed confidence in positive outcomes resulting from the meeting.

"I look forward to the information that will be collated and shared and am confident that this information will play an important role in contributing to improved measures to protect nuclear facilities from natural hazards like earthquakes and tsunamis on nuclear facilities," he said.

Antonio Godoy of Argentina is chairing the IEM, which consists of a plenary session and four technical sessions dealing with seismic hazard, tsunami hazard, seismic safety and tsunami safety, respectively. The plenary session features keynote presentations by the chairpersons of all the technical sessions. At the technical sessions, international experts will make presentations focusing on seven main thematic areas. These include: databases, hazard assessment, characterization of loading effects, event warning systems, safety assessment, protective measures and lessons learned.

At the closing session on the final day, the Co-chairpersons of the technical sessions will present their conclusions. The Chairperson of the IEM will provide an overall summary of the meeting.


The IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, consisting of 12 actions and 39 sub-actions, outlines a programme of work to strengthen global nuclear safety. Activities include enhancing and strengthening IAEA expert peer reviews, developing more robust and effective national regulatory bodies, and strengthening emergency preparedness and response. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident highlighted the importance of protecting nuclear power plants against extreme natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

Valuable experience and many lessons have been and are being learned by Member States and operators in managing NPPs under adverse conditions. At the IAEA, seismic safety activities are coordinated through the International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC). It plays a leading role in supporting nuclear safety globally. Its work and research on external events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and flooding offers the sound, scientifically-proven basis for the effective implementation of best practices in seismic safety.

The ISSC also compiles a data bank on external hazards and their impact on NPPs as a resource base for Member States. The latest addition to the data bank will be the findings from a recent seismic expert mission to the Onagawa nuclear power station in Japan.

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