IAEA Board of Governors: Safety

Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Radiation, Transport, and Waste Safety

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
March 5-9, 2012

Agenda Item 2

Strengthening the Agency’s Activities Related to Nuclear Radiation, Transport, and Waste Safety

U.S. Statement

Mr. Chairman,

The United States takes this opportunity to thank the Director General and the Secretariat for their efforts in preparing for this meeting.  It is indeed appropriate that the topic of “Strengthening the Agency’s activities related to nuclear, radiation, transport, and waste safety” be the first substantive item of business at this meeting.  Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident last year, the Agency has rightfully focused a significant amount of attention on nuclear safety.

I would first like to recount some the actions that the United States has taken since March 11, 2011 – when the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident began.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) immediately staffed its Headquarters emergency operations center and began communicating available information to the public and other Federal agencies.  The NRC further took immediate action and dispatched written instructions, notices, and bulletins to licensed facilities to ensure there were no immediate safety concerns at U.S. facilities.  The NRC then created the “Near-Term Task Force,” charged with conducting a systematic and methodical review of the NRC’s processes and regulations to determine whether the organization should make additional improvements to its regulatory system, in light of the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.  The Task Force issued its report, entitled “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century,” on July 12, 2011.  The NRC further developed a Steering Committee and the “Japan Lessons-Learned Project Directorate” to coordinate its actions in response to the Fukushima accident.  A prioritization scheme was developed to describe three tiers of actions: Tier one – actions to begin without unnecessary delay; Tier two –actions that cannot yet be initiated because of a further need for technical assessment, dependence on Tier one issues, or a lack of availability of critical skill sets; and Tier three – those actions that require further staff study to support regulatory action.  The NRC will report, in much more detail, on its progress in this area at the upcoming Extraordinary Meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety in August 2012.

Mr. Chairman,

The U.S. nuclear power industry also made a strong response to the Fukushima accident.  A series of event reports, published by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, defined the self-initiated industry response for the near term.  Subsequently, a U.S. nuclear power industry document established the intermediate and long-term self-initiated industry response.  This document, entitled “The Way Forward: U.S. Industry Leadership in Response to the Events at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant,” defined eight strategic goals for the industry.  The U.S. industry expects “The Way Forward” to be consistent with actions required as specified by the NRC’s regulatory response.  The U.S. government and industry continue to cooperate closely on nuclear safety matters.  In this regard, we are pleased that a large and diverse group of U.S. government and industry personnel will participate in the International Experts Meeting at the Agency just two weeks from now.

Mr. Chairman,

The three sub-items under this agenda topic are all important to nuclear safety.  The “Nuclear Safety Review 2012” provides an excellent summary of the dominant nuclear safety trends, issues, and challenges that occurred during 2011.  This year’s Safety Review carries more importance than normal because of the Fukushima accident.  We note that it provides a summary of the progression of the accident, along with a recapitulation of the Agency’s response, as well as a summary of the preliminary lessons learned in certain safety areas.  The United States looks forward to reviewing the draft Nuclear Safety Review for 2012 and will provide any additional comments by the requested date of April 20, 2012.

The second sub-item, the “Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material — 2012 edition,” is the revision of the Agency’s 2005 document.  It was developed following the Agency’s policy for reviewing and revising its safety standards documents.  We strongly support the Agency’s efforts in reviewing and updating its documents, particularly in the Safety Standards Series.    With an eye toward the initial lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, we applaud the Agency for its ongoing efforts to perform a systematic review of other documents in the Safety Standards Series.

Finally, the Director General has provided a report on “Progress in the Implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.”  We welcome the provision of this report, particularly with the inclusion of the Agency’s expert mission that was conducted in late January.  This document will assist Member States in their efforts to implement the Action Plan and should encourage further support for the Action Plan.  More generally, we commend DG Amano and the Secretariat’s efforts to develop and implement the Action Plan, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Agency and Member States to further develop the Action Plan and to implement it.   In addition, the United States, as president of the G-8 this year, will support implementation of the Action Plan through the G-8’s Nuclear Safety and Security Group activities.  The United States will further assist Action Plan initiatives through its voluntary contributions to the IAEA for nuclear safety.  Furthermore, the United States continues to encourage the Agency to prioritize the projects under the Action Plan to the extent practicable.  To avoid the inefficient use of resources, it would be useful for Member States to be able to see the prioritization plans before the Agency convenes multiple technical or consultancy meetings.  It would be useful to see budgeting estimates for the plans as well.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to highlight just a couple of points from the report.  We are encouraged by the improved coordination between the World Association of Nuclear Operators and the Agency and look forward to further developments between the two.

We are very interested in the developments in the Action Plan’s effort to strengthen IAEA peer reviews in order to maximize the benefits to Member States.  The United States remains strongly supportive of the peer review process and encourages all Member States to avail themselves of the Agency’s services in this area.  In the United States, we hosted an Operational Safety Review Team mission to Seabrook Nuclear Power Station last June, and are working with the Agency to schedule our follow-up Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission.  We note the increase in demand for IAEA peer review services and that that Secretariat is preparing a long term plan to address this demand, taking into account the availability of IAEA and international experts.  We wish to be kept updated on the development of this plan, understanding the cost in human resources for conducting the peer reviews.

Again, the United States expresses its gratitude to the Agency for the documents provided under this agenda item and we look forward to further progress in nuclear safety.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.