IAEA Board of Governors Meeting June 6-10, 2011
Issues Related to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident
Ambassador Glyn T. Davies
Permanent U.S. Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency
June 7, 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
My delegation once again extends its heartfelt condolences to the people and government of Japan as we near the three-month mark since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami brought death and devastation to so many. The United States is proud to have been able to lend a helping hand to Japan beginning in the hours after the tragedy, both in humanitarian relief efforts and to address the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
As noted in the Deputy Director General Flory’s presentation, since the time of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Board of Governors on March 21, there appear to be some positive signs toward stabilization of the Fukushima Daiichi facility. TEPCO’s “Roadmap” to bring the reactors and spent fuel pools to a stable cooling condition and to mitigate the release of radioactive materials is encouraging. Nonetheless, the situation remains serious, and the process of achieving cold shut down of each of the reactors will likely take several months. The cleanup of the site will be a long-term operation with many challenges.
The accident highlights the need to consider how we can be better prepared to deal with the potential effects on nuclear facilities of natural – as well as man-made — catastrophes of virtually unprecedented scale and scope. It underlines the paramount importance of safety in the use of nuclear energy. We know that the lessons learned from this accident will take some time to fully analyze; however, the process will most certainly lead to multiple actions aimed at strengthening global nuclear safety, including strengthening international mechanisms, increasing international cooperation, and improving the safety of facilities.
The United States applauds the Director General’s decision to convene a High- Level Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, to be held just two weeks from now. We also fully support and appreciate Ambassador Guerreiro’s leadership to work with Member States to shape the agenda for the upcoming conference, with the goal of launching a process for the most effective and efficient means to address lessons learned from this historic accident, including areas for improvement within the Global Nuclear Safety Framework. The Ministerial Conference will be followed by intense cooperation in many other forums over the remainder of this year and beyond, including the international conference Japan will conduct in cooperation with the Agency in the latter half of 2012; we welcome this initiative of the Government of Japan.
Although it is likely that the outcome of this effort will identify areas for improvements within some of the safety standards, the United States continues to underscore the importance of adherence to existing international safety conventions, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), and utilizing IAEA safety standards so as to assist Member States with improvements in safety. During the recent Fifth Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the CNS, a significant portion of the meeting focused on the Fukushima accident; in fact, the Contracting Parties decided to conduct an Extraordinary CNS Meeting in 2012 to review lessons already learned at that time, and to review the effectiveness and, if necessary, the continued suitability of the provisions of the CNS.
During the CNS Review Meeting, we also had the opportunity to listen to and openly discuss the various National Reports submitted by Contracting Parties. Some of the presentations included an initial report on early actions taken to address immediately relevant issues such as the loss of offsite power. It is exactly these types of open discussions, debates, and interactions with Contracting Parties that the United States believes are extremely beneficial to continually improve the global nuclear safety regime.
We note that Iran recently commenced operations to start-up a nuclear power plant, but has thus far chosen not to join the CNS. This is unfortunate, and would make Iran the only Member State operating a civil nuclear power plant that is not party to the CNS. As we have stated in the past, we strongly encourage Iran, and indeed all Member States, to become party to the CNS. Given the current situation with the Fukushima accident, we believe it is of paramount importance that Member States avail themselves of every opportunity to improve the safety at nuclear facilities. The United States continues to believe that the CNS is an essential vehicle toward achieving that goal.
In an issue related to the Fukushima accident, we believe it is important to review and evaluate the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency. It would be useful to examine the utility of those conventions during such a serious nuclear accident as Fukushima. Moreover, while the damage occurred in Japan, the Fukushima accident has highlighted the need for a global nuclear liability regime. The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage was developed under the aegis of the Agency to be the basis for a global nuclear liability regime. We urge Member States to join the Convention on Supplementary Compensation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, With these comments my delegation expresses support for the proposal that the Board release to the public the report on Agency activities contained in document GOV/INF/2011/8.