The Two-Way
11:55 am
Mon June 20, 2011

'All Nuclear Plants' Need Safety Reviews, U.N. Expert Says

The disaster at Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant underscores that "we need to systematically and regularly review the safety of all nuclear power plants" around the world, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said today.

"Business as usual is not an option," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano added in an address to the agency's Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna.

But as Amano was issuing that call, The Associated Press was reporting this:

"Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. ...

"Industry and government officials defend their actions, and insist that no chances are being taken."

Amano also called for stronger "IAEA safety standards" and that they be "universally applied." And he said that:

"Mechanisms for responding to and managing a nuclear incident need to be enhanced, both within countries and at the regional and international levels. Practical measures could include operators pooling resources to establish stockpiles of emergency equipment such as mobile diesel generators, which could be quickly delivered to a nuclear plant hit by a total power blackout. For our part, the IAEA would be prepared to establish an international register of special technical expertise - in robotics or fire-fighting, for example - which it could offer to a country which suffers an accident."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.