April 8, 2011 1:16:00 am
Expressing deep concern over the tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis in Japan,an ad-hoc group of nuclear safety experts from all over the world,that includes Indias Anil Kakodkar,has suggested a set of additional safety measures that must be taken in order to ensure that a Fukushima-like incident never happens again.
This group of 16 nuclear scientists from the United States,Germany,Spain,France and many other countries has issued a statement,Never Again: An Essential Goal for Nuclear Safety,that was handed over to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday.
The statement notes that many advances had been made in nuclear safety after previous accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979 and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the erstwhile USSR and it was widely believed that nuclear accidents were a thing of history.
The Fukushima incident,that was triggered by a powerful earthquake followed by a tsunami,has changed that perception and made it evident that more can be done to prevent severe accidents and to limit their consequences should they nevertheless occur,the statement says.
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The scientists have said it was still early to fully analyse what went wrong at Fukushima. Based on preliminary reviews,however,it was evident that while on the one hand the incident showed that nuclear power plants were capable of withstanding catastrophic natural disasters better than most other man-made objects,on the other it appears that,in the siting and design of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plants,an unlikely combination of low-probability events was not taken sufficiently into account.
Among the measures suggested by the group of scientists include enhanced training of personnel manning the nuclear power plants,extra precaution while selecting the site for locating new nuclear plants and upgrading safety features in all existing nuclear installations,especially ones that have been operating for long.
The safety requirements for future nuclear power plants should be refined to assure that their backup cooling systems are able to operate for a long enough time following a complete loss of on-site and off-site power, it says.
Importantly,the group has warned against a natural tendency of human beings for complacency.
There are occasional signs that national and international safety assessments and peer reviews missions are becoming more focussed on demonstrating that safety is satisfactory and in compliance with national and international standards than on finding and correcting deficiencies,be they in design,operation,or the standards themselves, they said.
We are confident that only nuclear power that avoids being a threat to the health and safety of the population and to the environment is acceptable to the society, they said.
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