IAEA chief seeks bigger crisis role

Yukiya Amano would like to see IAEA more involved in damage control from future nuclear disaster.

Vienna: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday that he would like to see his agency more involved in damage control from any future nuclear disaster, in comments prompted by criticism of the IAEA`s role in the Fukushima accident.

The agency was criticised by some member states and in Japan for taking what was perceived to be a too passive role in trying to manage the March 11 Fukushima disaster. In an interview, Yukiya Amano suggested he would like to increase the IAEA`s future profile.

Amano, who departs on Sunday for Japan for talks with government officials and a tour of the stricken reactor, said that the main role of the IAEA in such a situation would remain sharing verified information with member states and coordinating assistance.

But he added that in the wake of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, "the expectation was very high" on his agency "to shape the analysis of scenarios" from an unfolding nuclear crisis with the goal of mitigating its consequences.

"I`d like to explore the possibility," he said, but cautioned that it was up to the agency`s 151 member nations — and in particular its 35-nation board of governors — to approve such an expanded mandate.

The agency is now drawing up an action plan on nuclear safety to be presented to the IAEA board and Amano said that document can be used as a launching pad to explore enhancing the role of his agency in damage control from any further disasters.

Separately, in an IAEA statement, Amano said he welcomed the progress that the Tokyo Electric Power Company has made in implementing its "Road Map" to contain and stabilise the situation in the aftermath of the March disaster at its reactor.

Based on progress to date, the agency thinks that TEPCO`s plan to achieve "cold shutdown by early next year is possible”, said the statement.

A reactor reaches cold shutdown when the temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel drops below 100 degrees Celsius and therefore water used as a coolant no longer boils off into steam.

Both TEPCO and the government said earlier this week that crippled reactors at Japan`s tsunami-hit nuclear power plant have reached stability more than four months since the disaster and the plant is on track for a cold shutdown within six months.

The IAEA said Amano expected to come away from talks with government ministers with a better understanding of Tokyo`s policy for improving nuclear safety in Japan, such as introducing "stress tests" for nuclear power plants as well as plans to reduce radioactive contamination in the Fukushima area.

Bureau Report

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