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Fukushima meeting ends with no positive action

Vienna, Austria — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 24 June 2011 – The United Nations atomic agency missed a chance to strengthen international nuclear safety when delegates concluded a meeting on Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor meltdowns without implementing new policies.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 151-nation ministerial meeting ended here with countries delaying further negotiations until September, when the IAEA holds its annual general conference alongside a separate high- level UN summit called by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

This week’s closed-door meeting featured the release of an IAEA fact-finding mission report on the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, where investigators found inadequate earthquake and tsunami defenses. Delegates were split on proposals to allow the agency to carry out random safety checks at plants and on the extent to which nuclear technologies will be shared.

“There are reasons that states don’t want to have deficiencies revealed,” London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst Jasper Pandza said in a telephone interview. “States don’t want to have international pressure exerted on them. If nuclear deficiencies are revealed, states don’t want to risk their nuclear programmes.”

Countries talked about ways to improve safety standards, increase transparency and review nuclear plant reviews, said Mike Weightman, the U.K. nuclear inspector who led the UN review of the Fukushima disaster in March. An IAEA proposal to subject all of the world’s 440 reactors to random safety checks was sidelined after most participants favoured focusing on older reactors, Weightman said at the conference’s final session.