UN approves Japan's reactor tests
31 January 2012, 19:20
Tokyo - The UN's nuclear watchdog on Tuesday gave
its seal of approval to Japan's reactor safety checks, but said
utilities should beef up plans for managing disasters in the wake of the
A delegation from the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) is in the country at the government's invitation as
officials look for ways to convince a deeply sceptical population that
idled nuclear plants are safe to restart.
With just a handful of
Japan's 54 reactors still operational, officials are nervously eyeing
possible electricity shortfalls unless reactors are brought back online -
something that can only be done if local communities consent.
government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) asked the IAEA
to assess the stringency of the so-called stress tests to which all
reactors are subjected before being given the green light to resume
"The conclusion of the team is that NISA's
instructions and review process for the comprehensive safety assessments
are generally consistent with IAEA safety standards," the delegation
said in a statement.
But the watchdog said further tests of the
reactors should also look at how the utilities operating them would deal
with a worst-case scenario.
Accident management programmes
should ensure that in the secondary assessment the provisions for
mitigation of severe accidents should be addressed more
comprehensively," the report said.
NISA should make sure
companies "develop comprehensive accident management programmes ... in
the area of severe accident management", it said.
also urged Tokyo to engage with people living in the shadow of nuclear
plants as it tries to convince them the technology is safe.
stress tests were introduced as a way of determining how reactors would
cope with the impact of large-scale natural disasters after meltdowns
and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi caused by last March's earthquake
Radiation was scattered over a large area and made
its way into the oceans, air and food chain in the weeks and months
after the disaster, reversing the mood among Japan's once
"In any of these processes, the more
information can be exchanged with the people in the local vicinity, the
better," the delegation's team leader James Lyons told a news
No natural resources
But he noted that
Japan, not the IAEA, has to decide on whether to restart nuclear power
plants in the country, saying: "That's not part of our decision making
The energy-hungry nation has virtually no natural
resources of its own and relied on atomic power for around a third of
its electricity before March 11.
Since the disaster the vast bulk
of nuclear plants have been shut down as local authorities blocked
their being restarted following routine safety checks or maintenance.
has instead had to massively ramp up imports of fossil fuels and curb
power usage as it tries to make up the shortfall in power generation.
than 19 000 people died in the natural disaster, but the nuclear
emergency - the world's worst since Chernobyl a quarter of a century ago
- has not directly claimed any lives.
However, tens of thousands
of people were forced from their homes around the plant as radiation
levels rocketed, with many not knowing when - or even if - they will be
allowed to return.
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