UN Nuclear Agency Approves Japanese Nuclear Stress Tests

Posted January 31st, 2012 at 7:55 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations' nuclear agency has approved the Japanese government's plan to assess the safety of its nuclear power plants.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday turned over the results of its week-long fact-finding visit to officials with Japan's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The 10-member IAEA team discussed the government's plan to conduct stress tests on its nuclear plants, and toured the Ohi plant in Fukui prefecture.

“In our review of the process that they did, we were able to see the review that NISA performed on the Ohi comprehensive safety assessment. And we were satisfied with the work they had done as part of their primary assessment. There's also going to be a secondary assessment that includes additional areas for them to review and we've made a few suggestions about how they can improve that process.”

Japan ordered the stress tests to determine if the nuclear facilities can withstand the kind of natural disasters that crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant last year.

“We were encouraged that the Japanese assessment was evaluated as valid. The review including our implementation of emergency safety measures and the efforts to ensure transparency in operations resulted as in line and consistent with the IAEA safety standard as well as in terms of international practices.”

The IAEA team recommended that authorities hold meetings with communities located near the power plants to discuss the findings of the stress tests.

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last March triggered a meltdown of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi powerplant. The meltdown was the world's worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and eroded public confidence in Japan's nuclear power industry.

All but three of Japan's remaining 54 nuclear reactors have been shut down for safety checks, and the government has abandoned its plan to generate more than 50 percent of its energy from nuclear power by 2030.

The Japanese cabinet approved legislation Tuesday that would create a new nuclear watchdog agency and limit a nuclear reactor's operational lifespan to 40 years. One of the reactors at the crippled Fukushima reactor has been operating for 41 years.