On 11 March 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale and a subsequent 14‑15 m tsunami hit the Pacific coastline of Japan resulting in approximately 19 000 people dead or missing. These natural disasters were also at the origin of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. While the accident itself was not responsible for any casualties, it has affected the lives of thousands of displaced Japanese citizens and caused considerable environmental damage in the surrounding area.
As we reflect upon the first anniversary of these tragedies, our condolences go out to the Japanese people affected by these events. We also continue to pledge our support to the authorities who are working towards the remediation of the situation, both in terms of improving nuclear safety and the regulatory infrastructure as well as land decontamination and recovery.
In addition, over the past year, the NEA and its member governments have been making numerous efforts to further reinforce the safety of nuclear energy worldwide. Multiple verification activities and “stress tests” have been undertaken in all NEA member countries using nuclear power, and follow-up measures are being implemented to ensure that existing nuclear energy facilities are prepared even for extreme, multiple risks.
While for most this accident does not call into question the use of nuclear power as such, it does remind us all that nuclear energy requires the highest standards of safety which need to be reviewed and improved on a regular basis. Few could have imagined the combined natural disasters on such a colossal scale, but more must be done to prepare for such possibilities in the future.
In going forward, particular care should be given to reviewing specific site locations and designs associated with those sites. I believe that it is the role of international organisations like the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency to help countries carry out in-depth analyses of the lessons learnt, and to apply those lessons to all existing and future reactors.
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 friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.