Nuclear Forum Backs Safety Push After Japan Crisis

By Sylvia Westall | April 15, 2011

A 72-nation nuclear forum said on Thursday it backed a U.N.- led campaign to strengthen atomic safety in the light of Japan’s crisis and promised to carry out prompt steps as a result.

Japan’s month-long struggle to stabilize the Fukushima nuclear power plant after it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami has prompted a rethink about atomic power worldwide with some countries putting plans on hold.

“(We) are committed to draw and act upon the lessons of the Fukushima accident,” nuclear regulators said in a joint statement issued in Vienna at the end of a two-week conference.

Outside the venue, the environmental group Greenpeace had erected a small model nuclear power station which spewed out smoke. About 20 demonstrators dressed in yellow overalls held up anti-nuclear energy placards and handed out leaflets.

Although it was scheduled before the March 11 earthquake, the Vienna meeting to review the 1996 Convention on Nuclear Safety has been dominated by the need to strengthen safety after Japan’s emergency.

The forum said it supported plans to hold a ministerial conference on nuclear safety in June focusing on Fukushima. The meeting will be hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. atomic agency.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said the meeting will aim to improve nuclear safety and draw lessons from Fukushima, the most serious nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

“(We) are committed to actively contribute to this process,” the statement said. The forum said it would hold a special meeting on Japan in 2012 to improve safety.

The developments in Japan have put the IAEA’s ability to handle nuclear crises in the spotlight.

The Vienna-based body lacks the power to enforce the standards it recommends, which some countries and analysts argue needs to change to help guard against future disasters.

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