IAEA President Amano on Fukushima decommissioning: “It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi”
“It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi. The IAEA strongly recommends international cooperation for the decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants”, is the strongest statement Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made today at the Foreign Correspondence Club in Tokyo in a very carefully worded presentation.
IAEA is currently preparing a report about Fukushima Dai-ichi which will be completed by the end of this year, 2014.
We are often asked, whether nuclear power is safe, the answer is that no technology is 100% safe. A multilayer defense is required against risks, in-depth defense. Safety levels are now higher than they were before the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident.
IAEA: non-proliferation, nuclear safety, and other programs
Let me introduce The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA has three roles:
- Advise on nuclear power and nuclear safety. In this area, IAEA has no authority. IAEA only can advise. IAEA also helps developing countries which are are thinking to introduce nuclear power.
- Prevent nuclear proliferation. In this area, IAEA has authority.
- Other projects, for example in healthcare and decease prevention. For example, IAEA used radiation to disable breeding by insects distributing malaria and other illnesses.
IAEA is not an international nuclear safety regulator. IAEA can only advise on nuclear safety. IAEA does not influence countries, but provides comprehensive assistance.
Of course nuclear safety is intrinsically international: one country’s nuclear accident is all countries’ nuclear accident.
IAEA position on nuclear power
The IAEA has the position that nuclear technology is affordable and useful. IAEA is much more than a “nuclear watchdog”. IAEA also helps to make nuclear technology available for developing countries.
IAEA advises countries introducing nuclear energy. Today we have 437 nuclear power plants globally, and 72 are under planning or construction. Growth of nuclear energy is mainly in Asia, especially China and India, but also in Europe and in developing countries.
30 countries use nuclear power, and 60 countries are considering to start using nuclear power in the future.
IAEA and nuclear security
A growing role for IAEA is nuclear security, to advise on proper protection of nuclear materials, for example to prevent dirty bombs. IAEA provides guidance and measurement equipment. IAEA is ready to assist Japan in advising on nuclear security for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Next week, we will have a Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag.
IAEA prevents proliferation, prevents spread of nuclear weapons
The main current issue is Iran, and Iran has taken positive steps forward, but much remains to be done.
Regarding North Korea, the IAEA is currently not involved inside North Korea, but ready to help. The IAEA calls on North Korea to fully cooperate with IAEA.
IAEA motto is “Atoms for peace”.
- Question: Is it right to release contaminated water into the ocean?
Answer: It is common practice globally, to release contaminated water into the ocean, provided contamination is sufficiently low, and it is essential to talk to stake holders, e.g. fishermen. Storage is not a long term solution. IAEA recommends to release contaminated water into the ocean after proper treatment of the water, and after consultation with stake holders. IAEA recommends release into the ocean, because storage is cost and human resource intensive, and these resources need to be used in other areas of the decommissioning work.
- Question: Should not Japan have higher safety requirements because Japan is in an earthquake zone?
Answer: IAEA does not discriminate against any countries, and strong earthquakes are also known to happen in Europe. Strong earthquakes and tsunami can occur anywhere.
- Question: what is IAEA’s position regarding the prioritization of the Sendai nuclear plant in Kyushu?
Answer: IAEA does not take party in such decision making. Regulation is the responsibility of each country, and IAEA says that the regulator must be robust, independent and well funded.
- Question: Prime-Minister Abe says that Japan’s nuclear safety regulations now are the strictest in the world. What about missing evacuation plans?
Answer: It is not IAEA’s role to rank countries. Broadly speaking, Japanese regulations today are broadly in line with global regulations recommended by IAEA, and Japan has requested the IAEA to review the Japanese nuclear safety standards. IAEA makes safety standards, recommends the use of these standards, and if requested, sends missions to assist.
- Question: why do you say “broadly”?
Answer: Nuclear safety is a huge and complex field. In our view, Japanese nuclear safety regulations are broadly in line with global regulations, and IAEA will evaluate Japanese safety regulations on request by the Japanese Government.
- Question: Did IAEA warn that pre-Fukushima Dai-Ichi-disaster Japan’s nuclear regulator did not fulfill IAEA criteria: (1) robust, (2) independent, and (3) well funded?
Answer: IAEA did warn in polite language that more independence was needed.
- Question: What was the Japanese Government’s response?
Answer: The Japanese Government’s response was, that the regulatory body was sufficiently independent.
- Question: IAEA promotes nuclear power, and sets safety standards. Is there no conflict of interest between these two roles?
Answer: The IAEA is not a global regulator. In each country separately an independent in-country regulator is responsible for regulation in that country. IAEA supports, provides training for in-country regulators.
- Question: Who assesses IAEA?
Answer: The member states assess, and will end the tenure of the Director General if they are not satisfied.
- Question: Did IAEA hide nuclear radiation information in the days after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster?
Answer: The IAEA came on a radiation measurement mission to Tokyo and Fukushima on March 18, 2011 one week after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster, reconfirmed the measurements on March 19, 2011, the next day, and published these data.
- Question: Japan has 331 kg Plutonium. What is the target?
Answer: There are three issues: (1) Safeguard: this material is placed under IAEA control, assure that all material is used for peaceful purpose, and short-notice controls by IAEA are included by Japan, (2) nuclear security: is the responsibility of each state under IAEA guidance, (3) transparency, including future use: it is the responsibility of the Japanese Government to provide transparency regarding future use
- Question: do you think that 30-40 years will be sufficient for complete decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-Ichi?
Answer: I don’t know. Good understanding of the melted core takes very long time. At present we have no understanding of the melted core. IAEA recommends international cooperation. It is wrong that Japan has all technology. It is IAEA’s recommendation to cooperate internationally. Decommissioning the most difficult nuclear power plant will help to decommission all other nuclear power plants.
- Question: what about the shortage of workers for decommissioning Fukushima-Dai-Ichi?
Answer: Shortage of workers in nuclear plants is a global phenomenon.
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