Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fukushima Decommissioning:

An International Role

Some time ago, I wrote about a proposal by Takuya Hattori, President of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), for an international team to work on the decommissioning of the damaged Fukushima plants.  He argued that this was an international issue, would benefit from the collaborative efforts of the international community, and would be a service to the rest of the nuclear community.

I was therefore very pleased to see in a news item indicating that Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is sounding the same theme.  In an interview last week, Amano emphasizes that, “The safe decommissioning (of the reactors) should be undertaken not just by Japan but should draw on the wisdom and the most advanced technologies from around the world.”

Amano also emphasizes the dual benefit of an international approach, saying, “We hope to see the world make the most of the experiences in Fukushima, and the prefecture to capitalize on experiences from around the world.”

This is clearly a move in the right direction.  Although the cleanup from Fukushima has unique aspects related to the contamination resulting from the accidental releases, there are expected to be lessons learned that could be applicable to the decommissioning of all nuclear plants.  There had been growing concern in the international community that Japan might try to "go it alone" on their decontamination/decommissioning efforts, hoping to monopolize the global decommissioning market in the years ahead. 

A multilateral undertaking would help dispel that concern.

There are, of course, many issues to be ironed out before such an effort can begin.  In the interview, Amano laid out some of his ideas for such a group and indicated that the IAEA would be sending an international team of experts to Japan for further discussions.

We will continue to watch as this initiative evolves, but I find the fact that the IAEA has come out with such a forceful proposal to be a good omen.


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