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Working Together to Further Strengthen Nuclear Safety: IAEA Conference Concludes


The week-long IAEA conference, which took place in Vienna, focused on the need for a ‘continuous improvement approach’ towards nuclear safety. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Ways of further strengthening nuclear safety worldwide over the next ten years was the key focus of this week’s International Conference on a Decade of Progress after Fukushima-Daiichi, which closed today.

“We must continue the momentum from the last ten years and together ensure the continued safe operation of nuclear power,” said Mike Weightman, Conference President and former Chief Inspector at the United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation at the closing ceremony. “We are working together for the common good, and therefore it’s vital to maintain the safety and sustainability of nuclear power that will serve the benefits of society in the decades to come.”

The key topic emphasised in discussions this week was the need for a ‘continuous improvement approach’ towards nuclear safety, which involves countries assessing safety enhancements on a continuous basis, utilizing state-of-the-art hazard and risk assessments. The importance of effective communication with the public was also underlined as an essential element to build trust, establish the credibility of decision-makers, and to support a robust emergency preparedness and response framework.

Experts stressed the importance of greater international cooperation among countries and international organisations; the need to support countries embarking on nuclear power programmes to ensure high levels of nuclear safety; and the importance of reinforcing the implementation of international legal instruments for safety. 

The conference brought together around 900 participants, who gathered in Vienna and virtually, to look back on lessons learned and the actions taken since the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, and to identify ways to further strengthen nuclear safety.

"Having this conference was the right thing to do. We didn’t want to engage in an autopsy of the accident, but to look ahead to strengthen nuclear safety – and your efforts are key. Progress is possible and action has been taken in nuclear safety, and our work continues in this area,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in his closing remarks. “Safe nuclear power for everyone is part of the solution to climate change.”

In the last session of the week, the Conference President presented his Call for Actions which reflected his summary and conclusions of the findings from the week. It pulled together the inputs from the speakers and discussions during the conference and presented his ideas for action for the future.

The conference was divided into three parts: international organizations’ perspective, learning lessons and the path forward. Safety experts, nuclear regulators and operators, government and industry representatives, and technical support organizations (TSOs) deliberated on policy and technical issues such as ensuring the safe generation of nuclear power, emergency preparedness and response, and leadership and management.

At a special session, participants heard from key officials from the IAEA and Japan about the recent progress and future activities of the IAEA’s Task Force to review of the safety of a planned release of treated water now stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Another side event discussed the safeguards activities undertaken by the IAEA at Fukushima since the accident, and the innovations and technological advances that have permitted the safeguards approach.

During a Youth and Nuclear Industry panel, young students and professionals spoke about the future of nuclear safety, highlighting the importance of effective communication in getting across the message to the younger generation that nuclear safety is an integral part of nuclear technology use.

“Safe nuclear power exists in a broad context. We have heard this week about the path we must take to consider the matters of public trust, climate change, and the involvement of future generations in the global development and success of nuclear power,” said Gustavo Caruso, the Scientific Secretary of the Conference. “Our work counts and contributes to the nuclear safety framework worldwide.”

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