The International Atomic Energy Agency's 151 member nations are expected at a five-day meeting starting on Monday to weigh the potential approval of reforms to prevent atomic accidents, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Sept. 13). The proposals were developed after the start of the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The proposed policy updates, which won approval last week from the U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation governing board, must receive the final endorsement from the IAEA General Conference to take effect. China and the United States successfully pushed for the removal of legal mandates from the proposal, and the plan does not identify specific timelines for accomplishing its goals, according to AFP.
The Fukushima facility was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left Japan with more than 20,000 people missing or dead. Radiation releases on a level not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster forced the evacuation of 80,000 residents from a 12-mile ring exclusion zone surrounding the site (see GSN, Sept. 15).
Germany has expressed regret that the IAEA plan fails to empower the Vienna-based organization to ensure recommendations are met, while France has emerged as a less vocal detractor of the proposals.
The paper calls on governments to take various actions aimed at identifying and addressing problems in their nonmilitary atomic activities, such as inviting peer entities and the U.N. nuclear watchdog to vet atomic facilities, according to previous reports. Such activities would be authorized only "upon request" of a state with a potentially troubled plant.
French Energy Minister Eric Besson told AFP that his country is "satisfied" with the updates under consideration but would present recommendations on Monday for "more ambitious" moves.
The General Conference this week is also expected to consider the nuclear operations of Iran, North Korea, and Syria (see related GSN stories, Monday; Agence France-Presse/Dawn, Sept. 19).