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20 May 2013 | Moscow, Russia
World Association of Nuclear Operators Biennial General Meeting

Statement at WANO Biennial Meeting

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I addressed the last WANO Biennial Meeting in Shenzhen, China, in October 2011, we were still in the direct aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Japan was working hard to stabilise the crippled nuclear reactors.

We have come a long way since then. In Japan, a relatively stable situation has been established at Fukushima Daiichi, although the clean-up and remediation work will take many years. Internationally, many useful lessons have been learned. Effective steps have been taken to make nuclear power plants safer everywhere. There has been much sharing of information and experience.

After more than two years, we are beginning to put the Fukushima Daiichi accident behind us and looking to the future with a stronger commitment than ever to nuclear safety.

Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power was deeply shaken by the accident. I believe we have made good progress towards winning back that confidence. But operators, regulators and governments must maintain their unwavering commitment to safety. They must also continue to demonstrate as much openness and transparency as are compatible with safety and security. Cooperation between WANO and the IAEA has been significantly strengthened in the past two years. You have played a vital role in ensuring that nuclear operators everywhere learn the necessary lessons from Fukushima Daiichi.

Mr. Chairman,

The key focus for the IAEA and our 159 Member States has been implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was endorsed by our General Conference in September 2011. I will highlight a few of the main areas in which solid progress has been made.

First, stress tests.

Most IAEA Member States have completed assessments of safety vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants to ensure their ability to withstand extreme natural events. Many countries have developed action plans to implement the findings of the stress tests in order to improve safety in the short, medium and long term.

Second, safety standards.

IAEA safety standards have been subjected to thorough review, particularly the safety requirements applicable to nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage. No deficiencies were identified, but specific areas are nevertheless being strengthened. These include the requirements dealing with prolonged loss of power, identification of potential external hazards, and measures to ensure safety under severe accident conditions.

Third, peer reviews.

The IAEA has expanded its programme of peer reviews of operational safety, emergency preparedness, and regulatory effectiveness, to meet growing demand from Member States, both with and without nuclear power plants. Countries embarking on new nuclear power programmes are especially interested in our Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Missions, known as INIR.

Last year, we carried out eight Emergency Preparedness Review - EPREV - missions. This was the largest number in a single year since this programme began. In addition, the IAEA established the Emergency Preparedness and Response Expert Group (EPREG) to advise on strategies to strengthen international practices for nuclear and radiological emergencies. We are actively involved in strengthening Member States' emergency preparedness and response capacities through training events and exercises at the national level.

The Action Plan called on all Member States with nuclear power plants to host at least one IAEA Operational Safety Review - OSART - mission within three years. However, requests for this review service do not appear to have increased and several countries have still not requested an OSART mission. I encourage all countries to make full use of the whole range of IAEA peer reviews.

I also encourage all nuclear power plant operators to undergo international review of their severe accident management programmes and make the results public. Severe accident management has been a stand-alone review area within the OSART peer review service since 2011. It has been evaluated in eight OSART missions so far and some good practices were identified.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Great progress has been made in improving cooperation between WANO and the IAEA since I last spoke to you.

As you know, Mr. Stricker and I signed a new Memorandum of Understanding between WANO and the IAEA in September 2012. This has enabled us to work more closely together to support the safe and reliable operation of the world's nuclear power plants and to enhance information exchange.

WANO and the IAEA are adopting a more coordinated approach to their work in order to help prevent further accidents and to mitigate the consequences if an accident should occur. WANO has established a point of contact for communication with the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre.

WANO has provided the Agency with the recommendations from all of its Significant Operating Experience Reports as of 5 April 2013. We, for our part, have given WANO broader access to our joint IAEA/NEA web-based International Reporting System Database, and to IRS Highlights.

Our two Organizations have exchanged information about the schedules of peer reviews and related missions to be conducted in the coming years. We plan to coordinate the timing of our respective review missions in future. This should help to reduce duplication and ease the burden on operators.

WANO representatives are attending meetings of the IAEA International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) and of the Nuclear Safety Standards Committee. WANO staff have made presentations at several important IAEA meetings, including the post-Fukushima International Experts Meetings.

These improvements address many of the issues which I raised in my last statement to WANO. I believe they are making an important difference to global nuclear safety.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may recall, the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety took place in December 2012 in Fukushima Prefecture. The main goal was to contribute to strengthening nuclear safety worldwide.

In their concluding statement, the Co-Presidents stressed that strengthening nuclear safety is a continuous process and that there should be no complacency in safety matters. I know we all agree on that. In fact, I am pleased that I have seen no let-up in the past two years in the sense of urgency of everyone involved in nuclear power about the importance of improving nuclear safety.

The IAEA has begun work on a comprehensive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which will be finalised by the end of 2014. The goal is to produce an authoritative, factual and balanced assessment, with sufficient technical depth to be of real value to experts in the field.

The report will address the causes and consequences of the accident, as well as lessons learned. We will draw on the support of regulators, operators and designers, among others.

This IAEA report will be a major undertaking, which will involve well over 100 experts from more than 40 countries. The intention is that it should serve as the key reference document on the accident for years to come. I am grateful for the support of WANO members.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident, nuclear power will remain a very important part of the world's energy mix for at least decades to come.

The latest IAEA projections suggest that the total number of nuclear power plants in the world - 436 today - could increase by at least 80 or 90 in the next 20 years. It could even double.

Major users such as China, Russia and India have significant expansion plans. A number of countries have taken the decision to introduce nuclear power, including Bangladesh, Jordan, Nigeria, Poland, Turkey and Vietnam. The United Arab Emirates has started building a nuclear power plant, the first new country to do so for 27 years.

Next month, the IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century will take place in St. Petersburg. I believe it could prove to be a turning point for nuclear power. The emphasis will be on the way forward. The Conference will discuss issues such as energy and the environment, the deployment of innovative technology, new models of financing, and developments in radioactive waste management.

The St. Petersburg Conference will be attended not just by Ministers, but also by high-level representatives of the nuclear industry. It will provide a valuable opportunity to consider nuclear power's long-term contribution to sustainable development.

It is clear to me that the contribution of nuclear power to development in the coming decades will be significant. I am confident that WANO and the IAEA will continue to work closely together to ensure that the expansion of nuclear power takes place in a way which ensures maximum safety, reliability and efficiency. I wish you every success with your Biennial General Meeting.

Thank you.