UN atomic agency approves safety plan: diplomats

AFP , Tuesday 13 Sep 2011

The International Atomic Agency has approved a global safety 'action plan' despite accusations of being watered down, following criticism of Japan's response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis

The UN atomic agency's board approved Tuesday a global safety "action plan" six months after Japan suffered the world's biggest nuclear accident in 25 years, diplomats said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s plan, weaker however than first proposed, encourages fresh assessments of nuclear plants and emergency measures, as well as voluntary "peer review" visits by foreign experts.

Members of the 35-member IAEA board of governors approved the plan by consensus -- without a vote -- behind closed doors on Tuesday before it goes before a gathering of all 151 members of the Vienna-based body next week.

Earlier drafts however had been more stringent, proposing for example that such visits be mandatory and that 10 percent of the world's some 440 nuclear plants face peer reviews in the next three years.

Diplomats pointed the figure notably at the United States and China for watering down the proposals.

On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude quake rocked Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant. The resulting 14-metre (46-foot) ocean wave knocked out the power supply, the reactor cooling systems and back-up diesel generators.

The subsequent reactor meltdown forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and the banning of local farm produce. Six months on, engineers are still fighting to stop radiation leaking out.

The IAEA had criticised Japan's response to the accident, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986, especially its failure to implement the agency's convention on dealing with nuclear emergencies.

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