Skip to main content

The IAEA As Meta-Regulator?

amano You may have heard the International Atomic Energy Agency is having a ministerial conference in Vienna – ironic, of course, as Austria has no nuclear facilities. But the pastries are nice and the tourist council always appreciates the visitors.

I think the most interesting part of the conference, which was called to discuss post-Fukushima Daiichi safety issues - will happen later this week, as Japan will present its initial findings on the accident.

But the early part of the week brought a rather surprising proposal from the IAEA itself:

In Vienna this week, opening the International Atomic Energy Agency's first major global meeting since the Japanese Fukushima reactor disaster, agency head Yukiya Amano proposed that his organisation conduct random checks on reactors.

Warning that "business as usual" was not an option for the nuclear industry, he called for drafting of stronger IAEA global standards within a year and for improvements to the independence and capability of national regulators.

So, it would become kind of a “meta-regulator,” watching the watchmen, so to speak. The agency has to have its member countries sign on to this idea, which of course leads to issues of national sovereignty. Reporter Rick Wallace of the Australian writes that the idea hasn’t gone over very well – it’s essentially his lede and headline - but he offers nothing to back up the assertion – maybe he’s just reflecting hubbub on the floor of the conference rather than official statements. Stay tuned.

You can read NRC Chairman’s Gregory Jaczko’s remarks here. Here’s a bit:

While it is my opinion that U.S. nuclear plants are safe, the early work suggests there are a number of possible areas for improvement. To name a few, several of us on the commission have noted that our regulations for what is called a station blackout – essentially what happened in Fukushima – do not take into account an extended loss of AC power. Other areas that have drawn attention are spent fuel pools, emergency planning, or course seismic issues, contingency planning for situations beyond the design basis of a plant, and others.

All logical items to look at.

And IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s comments are here. A taste:

"We need to strengthen IAEA Safety Standards and to ensure that they are universally applied. I am therefore asking the IAEA's Commission on Safety Standards to review the relevant standards and to report within 12 months, with recommendations for strengthening them."

"Even the best safety standards are useless unless they are actually implemented. I urge all Member States to make a firm commitment to apply IAEA Safety Standards in practice."

He also made his “meta-regulator’ proposal in this speech. Do read the whole thing for an overview on what the IAEA has in mind.

If you want to explore the conference in detail, start here. PDFs and PowerPoint slides for the presentations are here.

We’ll have more on the conference after Japan presents its report on Fukushima.

---

Something entirely different: A sort of ramshackle anti-nuclear story at the Guardian didn’t include much that is comment-worthy, but I found its conclusion amusing:

The US energy mix, instead [of nuclear energy, of course], should include a national jobs program to make existing buildings energy efficient, and to install solar and wind-power technology where appropriate. These jobs could not be outsourced and would immediately reduce our energy use and, thus, our reliance on foreign oil and domestic coal and nuclear. Such a program could favor US manufacturers, to keep the money in the US economy. That would be a simple, effective and sane reaction to Fukushima.

I’m puzzled about the impact of these ideas on oil, but I cannot think that any other quibbling would get us anywhere. It’d be like arguing with a pile of fluff.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano in duplicate at the ministerial conference.

Comments

Clarice said…
Marky-Mark you write like an angel. Not so sure the IAEA is the answer to your prayers, tho. Ciao, bello.

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…