Nuclear Agency’s Board Adopts Safety Plan

By GEORGE JAHN | September 15, 2011

A 35-nation meeting of the U.N. nuclear agency on Tuesday adopted a post-Fukushima nuclear safety plan – despite gripes by influential member nations that it to too timid for making compliance voluntary.

Germany and several other EU states – as well as Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand – are unhappy with the plan because it does not obligate countries to allow outside monitoring of their civilian nuclear programs and gives the International Atomic Energy Agency no enforcement powers on safety.

Board member nations adopted the document by consensus, but not before Canada aired grievances shared by other critics in an unusually blunt statement.

“The draft Action Plan before Governors today will be seen as a timid response by the Agency,” said Canada’s statement to the closed meeting.

Canada said the plan is neither as comprehensive as recommended by a special post-Fukushima IAEA conference attended by dozens of government ministers in June, nor recommendations by IAEA chief Yakima Amman.

“It is disappointing, therefore, that the draft contains few new commitments and little in the way of increased transparency or safety peer reviews,” said the statement, which was made available to The Associated Press.

It chastised both the agency and its member states for missing “an opportunity to make necessary reforms to the global nuclear safety framework.”

Earlier in the debate on the plan, which began Monday, Ruediger Luedeking, Germany’s chief IAEA representative, said the document “does not fully meet our expectations.”

Suggesting that the text was vague and too nonbinding in nature, Luedeking said Germany would have wanted a plan in which member states’ commitments to peer reviews and IAEA oversight of their civilian nuclear programs had been “more clearly and stringently set out.”

Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Argentina were chief opponents of giving the IAEA more authority to police nuclear safety, said a diplomat from an IAEA member state attending the meeting.

But the United States was also comfortable with the decision to strip the plan of language entrusting the agency with more clout that was present in earlier drafts and leaving oversight to governments, national safety authorities and power companies, he said. Such a stance reflects Washington’s strong belief in domestic regulatory bodies having full control of nuclear safety.

The six-page document outlines steps to be taken by states with civilian nuclear programs to establish weaknesses in their networks and remedy them. But these measures – whether they are peer reviews, IAEA safety checks, or other proposals meant to improve nuclear safety – can only be carried out “upon request” of the nation involved.

Instead of being required to do so, member states are “strongly encouraged to voluntarily” open their facilities to outside checks of potential weak links that could result in a nuclear disaster.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.