Press Release
Paris, 8 June 2000



Enhancing safety in the nuclear fuel cycle

Close to 400 participants from around the world gathered in Tokyo, Japan from 29 to 31 May under the auspices of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to discuss and exchange information on technical and regulatory issues relevant to the safety of the nuclear fuel cycle. The workshop was held at the invitation of the Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) of Japan and the NEA is most grateful for all of their efforts and those of all the organisations in Japan who contributed to making it a success.

Sessions focused on criticality aspects, safety and regulation of facilities and emergency planning, preparedness and management issues.

Lessons learned from operating experience provided a sound basis for the discussions. Insights gained from the September 1999 JCO incident provided key elements to participants on how to enhance safety in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Among the major conclusions reached during the workshop were:

  • Countries have well-established, relatively mature and effective programmes to protect workers and the public from accidents in nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Many countries have performed programme reviews since the JCO incident at Tokai-mura. No major deviations were found although some areas of improvement were identified.

  • It was recognised that the event at Tokai-mura was an anomaly. Approaches being taken by Member countries in the regulation of fuel cycle facilities to reduce criticality safety hazards are very similar. Consideration of human factors and the need for passive safety system features are very important.

  • There is a need to have a strong safety culture in order to maintain safe facilities and prevent accidents. This includes the recognition that criticality events, while highly unlikely, can occur.

  • The challenge of maintaining the competence of operators, managers and regulators was recognised not only for fuel cycle facilities but for the whole of the nuclear industry.

  • Lessons learned from international emergency exercises are very important for planning and preparedness.

  • Further research for improving the dosimetry technology is required, and quick analysis of the types of radiation exposure is necessary.

  • Significant communication and organisational challenges are brought about by quickly developing fire, explosion or criticality accidents. National and local authorities should be prepared for such accidents as well as larger ones at nuclear power plants.

  • Strong endorsement is given to the efforts under way to develop an information exchange system, similar to that used for the Year 2000 (Y2K), in as timely a manner as possible. Such a system will enhance the international exchange of information between experts regarding incidents at nuclear facilities and enable them to assess possible consequences quickly.

Co-chairing the workshop were Dr. K. Uematsu, former Director-General of the NEA and Dr. W. Travers, Executive Director for Operations for the USNRC. Dr. Kanagawa, Commissioner of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan and Mr. Echávarri, Director-General of the NEA provided general remarks during the workshop.

The proceedings of the seminar will be published on 31 January 2001.

News Media Contacts:

Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot 
Head, External Relations and Public Affairs
OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
Tel.: +33 (1) 45 24 10 10
Fax: +33 (1) 45 24 11 10