Chapter 45: Action Plan on Nuclear Safety

This chapter was published on “Inuitech – Intuitech Technologies for Sustainability” on January 17, 2013.

Measures taken by countries as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident have been varied.  A number of countries announced reviews of their programmes.  Belgium, Germany and Switzerland took additional steps to phase out nuclear power entirely while others re-emphasized their expansion plans.  Many member states carried out national safety assessment reviews in 2011 (often called ‘stress tests’), and commitments were made to complete any remaining assessments promptly and to implement the necessary corrective action. In countries considering the introduction of nuclear power, interest remained strong. Although some countries indicated that they would delay decisions to start nuclear power programmes, others continued with their plans to introduce nuclear energy.

Despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the recent trend of power up rates and of renewed or extended licences for many operating reactors continued in 2011 in many countries:

  • In Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) granted a five-year renewal of the operating licence for Gentille-2 in Quebec;
  • In Finland, Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) completed in 2011 the latest of a series of refurbishments at unit 2 of the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which has raised the reactor’s capacity (860 MW (e)) by 20 MW (e).  These have brought Olkiluoto-2 total output to 880 MW(e), a one third increase from its original 660 MW(e);
  • In France, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) approved a lifetime extension of another ten years for the Fessenheim-1 NPP;
  • In Mexico, early in the year the country’s two reactors underwent a 20 percent capacity increase upon the completion of a four-year modernization project;
  • In Spain, the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) approved a ten-year operating licence extension for the Cofrentes NPP and the two units of the Ascó NPP.  Furthermore, the two reactors at the Almaraz NPP were uprated by 70 MW(e);
  • In Slovakia, the utility Slovenské elektrárne (SE) completed the modernization and uprate programme of both units at the Bohunice NPP;
  • In the USA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed the operating licences for an additional 20 years for: Vermont Yankee; Prairie Island-1 and -2; Kewaunee; Palo Verde-1, -2 and -3; Salem-1 and -2, and Hope Creek. This has brought the total number of approved licence renewals in the USA to 71 since 2000. Fifteen licence renewal applications are currently under review.  Furthermore, 5 uprate applications were approved by the US NRC in 2011 and 20 power uprate applications are currently under review; and
  • Lastly, the first site selection for a new NPP after the Fukushima Daiichi accident was announced in October 2011 when the municipality of Pyhäjoki in Finland was selected by Fennovoima as the site of the country’s third NPP.

A Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety was convened by the Agency in June 2011. Its objectives were to discuss an initial assessment of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, to consider the lessons that needed to be learned, to help launch a process to enhance nuclear safety throughout the world and to consider ways of further strengthening the response to nuclear accidents and emergencies. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which defines 12 main actions, was endorsed by the General Conference in September 2011.

In considering this Action Plan, it is important to note that:

  • The responsibility for ensuring the application of the highest standards of nuclear safety and for providing a timely, transparent and adequate response to nuclear emergencies, including addressing vulnerabilities revealed by accidents, lies with each Member State and operating organization;
  • The IAEA Safety Standards provide the basis for what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation, and will continue to be objective, transparent and technologically neutral;
  • Transparency in all aspects of nuclear safety through timely and continuous sharing and dissemination of objective information, including information on nuclear emergencies and their radiological consequences, is of particular importance to improve safety and to meet the high level of public expectation. Nuclear accidents may have transboundary effects; therefore it is important to provide adequate responses based on scientific knowledge and full transparency;
  • As understanding of the accident develops, additional analysis of the root causes will be carried out. Further lessons may be learned and, as appropriate, be incorporated into the proposed actions by updating the Action Plan. The High Level Conference to be organized by Japan and the IAEA in 2012 will provide an opportunity for learning further lessons and for enhancing transparency; and
  • The Agency’s prompt and effective implementation of activities under the Action Plan will be funded through prioritization and continuing efficient use of resources from the regular budget, and through voluntary contributions of extra budgetary resources.

The purpose of the Action Plan is to define a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework. The plan consists of actions building on the Ministerial Declaration, the conclusions and recommendations of the Working Sessions, and the experience and knowledge therein.

Strengthening nuclear safety in light of the accident is addressed through a number of measures proposed in this Action Plan including 12 main actions, each with corresponding sub-actions, focusing on:Slide1

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It is recognized that the success of this Action Plan in strengthening nuclear safety is dependent on its implementation through the full cooperation and participation of Member States and will require also the involvement of many other stakeholders. They are therefore encouraged to work cooperatively to implement the Action Plan to maximize the benefit of the lessons learned from the accident and to produce concrete results as soon as possible.  Progress on the implementation of the Action Plan will be reported to the September 2012 meeting of the Board of Governors and the 2012 General Conference and subsequently on an annual basis as may be necessary. In addition, the extraordinary meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) in 2012 will provide an opportunity to consider further measures to strengthen nuclear safety.

The Second Extraordinary Meeting and the Organizational Meeting for the Sixth Review Meeting was held from 27-31 August 2012 in Vienna.  Nuclear regulators and operators reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear safety at the 2nd Extraordinary Meeting of the CPs to the Convention on Nuclear Safety.    It was agreed to ensure that operators, who have the primary responsibility for safe operation of nuclear power plants, make needed safety improvements to address and draw the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.  It was also agreed that nuclear power plants are robust facilities designed to withstand a wide range of natural hazards. Nonetheless, the Contracting Parties have undertaken comprehensive reassessments (e.g. stress tests) of natural hazards, including earthquake and floods, to identify measures to improve nuclear safety based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Improvements to the plant design, procedures and processes have been implemented or are in progress and as further information and analysis on the accident emerges, which will take several years, the Contracting Parties remain committed to take any follow-up and additional actions needed, to enhance the ability of nuclear power plants to withstand natural hazards.

It was also agreed that the regulator’s top priority must be to protect public health and safety.  The Contracting Parties will ensure that regulatory bodies have sufficient resources to undertake their duties and are effectively independent from entities having responsibilities or interests in the promotion or utilization of nuclear energy that could conflict or unduly influence the regulator’s decision making.

It was concluded that the Contracting Parties:

  • Encourage international cooperation through the IAEA and networks of regulators, operators and technical support organizations, to share information on the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident;
  • Recognize that it is important to share information, including predictive tools, on extreme natural hazards at nuclear power plants and to update the relevant IAEA guidelines. These updates will also serve to enhance the reassessment of such hazards, plant robustness, and timely in-depth safety assessment, such as Periodic Safety Reviews. In addition, communicating the outcome of these assessments in an open and transparent way to the public remains a high priority;
  • Highlight the importance of maintaining containment integrity to protect public health and safety in case of a severe accident, and agreed that, where appropriate, to take further measures to maintain containment and to prevent a large radiation release would be taken;
  • Agreed that on-site and off-site emergency preparedness should be enhanced to ensure the public is adequately protected from all events, including severe accidents;
  • Agreed that the National Reports for the 6th Review Meeting, and subsequent Review Meetings, would include information about how IAEA Safety Standards are taken into account in a Contracting Party’s obligation to implement the Convention on Nuclear Safety; and
  • Made several revisions to the procedures and guidance, which will ensure more robust peer reviews process and greater transparency. In addition, a working group open to all Contracting Parties was established with the task of reporting to the next Review Meeting on a list of actions to strengthen the peer review process and on proposals to amend, when necessary, the Convention.

A meeting of the Board of Governors (General Conference) held on 9 August 2012 reported the progress in the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on nuclear safety.  This report provided the progress on each action item, highlighting the Action, Goals, Achievements, Current Status, and Next Steps.

Resources:

  1. IAEA Nuclear Technology Review for 2012;
  2. The IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety;
  3. Main Conclusions of the 2nd Extraordinary Meeting; and
  4. Progress in the Implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety Supplementary Information

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