Immediately following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in March 2011, the NEA offered its direct assistance to the Japanese authorities, notably in the development and implementation of national safety reviews and stress tests, best practices in the remediation of land contaminated with radioactive materials, planning and effective management of decontamination activities, long-term planning for the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and main elements to achieve effective regulatory reform. The NEA continues to provide support to the Japanese institutions, and following their request, in February 2013 the NEA held a specific discussion on the new Japanese safety requirements to be issued in July 2013.
NEA activities in follow-up to the accident are being co-ordinated through the Integrated NEA Fukushima Actions for Safety Enhancements (INFASE) programme. This programme is being implemented by the three NEA standing technical committees – the Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities (CNRA), the Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSNI) and the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) – that address regulation and safety.
As part of the NEA INFASE programme, a summary report of key NEA actions and member country responses is currently being prepared and is expected to be approved in June 2013 and published immediately thereafter. This report will cover specific activities and outcomes in the following areas:
In terms of the reassessment of defence-in-depth, the NEA Steering Committee held a policy debate on this subject in October 2012 and recognised that the concept of defence-in-depth remains valid, but that issues have been raised regarding its implementation which needs to be further reviewed and improved. Member countries stressed once again that prime responsibility for safety lies with the operator, but that the regulator has an important role to play in ensuring that the barriers in place to protect the public and the environment remain effective. In this context, independent, technically competent nuclear regulatory bodies are key for ensuring such effectiveness. Member countries also agreed on the importance of a robust safety culture. They encouraged close international co-operation among nuclear regulators, research bodies, governmental bodies and industry, and welcomed continued NEA efforts in this area, notably through the activities of the CNRA and the CSNI, which will be holding a joint workshop in June 2013 to further investigate defence-in-depth issues and follow-up actions. The IAEA will contribute to this workshop.
Nuclear safety research
With decades of experience in co-ordinating joint international research projects and supported by members and associated countries with advanced nuclear power programmes, the NEA is uniquely positioned to carry out a range of nuclear safety research activities. By bringing together the top technical and regulatory experts from mature nuclear industry and regulatory organisations in focused efforts, it helps the international community meet the post-Fukushima challenges to the continued use and future development of nuclear energy.
In 2012, the NEA supported 13 international joint projects on nuclear safety research and 4 projects involving nuclear safety databases. The NEA has also carried out a review and analysis of its previous joint international research projects which are relevant to the accident at Fukushima. This research and analysis, in areas such as ex-vessel phenomena and containment response, are part of a general reassessment of operating experience to address conditions that could challenge nuclear safety. Through the analyses completed thus far, and those which will be undertaken, the NEA will help improve the nuclear safety knowledge available to the international community.
International co-operation will also be fundamental to the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Through the sharing of information as various elements of the plant's situation are investigated, numerous operators and regulators will be able to learn from this experience. In this respect, the NEA is committed to offer its assistance in establishing a full programme of international joint research projects on the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant.
As a first step, the NEA has launched the Benchmark Study of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This project is key to improving the current knowledge base regarding the status of the cores in units 1 to 3 prior to fuel debris removal, and as a part of the Japanese government's R&D roadmap for the medium and long term in preparation for the decommissioning of units 1 to 4.
To read more about NEA activities in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident, see:
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NEA membership consists of 31 countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD analyses in areas such as energy and the sustainable development of low‑carbon economies.