Japan crisis overshadows nuclear safety meeting in Austria

The meeting, hosted by IAEA, centres around the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

Updated: Apr 04, 2011, 13:22 PM IST

Vienna: Representatives from dozens of countries are meeting in the Austrian capital on Monday to scrutinise safety at each other`s power plants with the aim of avoiding disasters such as the Japanese nuclear crisis.

The meeting, hosted by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, centres around the Convention on Nuclear Safety that came into being in the wake of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents.

Adopted in 1994, it commits states party to it to submit reports on the safety of their civil nuclear facilities for review by their counterparts at gatherings held every three years. The idea is that questioning and peer pressure will keep countries on their toes.

This year`s meeting, which runs through April 14, is overshadowed by the dire situation at Japan`s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex that has been releasing dangerous radiation since it was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Officials have acknowledged it may take months to bring the situation under control.

A Japanese report prepared for the meeting and dated September 2010 addressed the issue of earthquake preparedness.

"The activities requiring continuous commitment, for example, re-evaluation of seismic safety of the existing nuclear installations ... shall be pursued systematically and steadily," the report said.

It noted that Japan has been re-evaluating the "seismic safety" of all existing nuclear power reactor facilities and highlighted earthquake-related incidents that it said should serve as lessons for the future.

These included a fire and leak of radioactive water at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant that was hit by a powerful tremor in 2007 and previously was one of Japan`s worst nuclear accidents.

Delegates in Vienna are likely to express interest in findings of more recent reports, such as one by Japan`s nuclear safety agency dated March 02 that criticised the operator of the Daiichi complex for failing to inspect critical equipment.

A separate side meeting focused specifically on the Fukushima Daiichi plant is scheduled for Monday evening.

Bureau Report