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Japan Atomic Disaster Prompted Nuclear Reforms Elsewhere

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

Technicians and journalists walk along a wall lined with paper cranes on Monday at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than a dozen nations revamped domestic atomic safety measures in response to damage sustained by the Japanese facility following an earthquake and tsunami three years ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said. Technicians and journalists walk along a wall lined with paper cranes on Monday at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than a dozen nations revamped domestic atomic safety measures in response to damage sustained by the Japanese facility following an earthquake and tsunami three years ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said. (Toru Hanai/AFP/Getty Images)

The regulatory impact of Japan's Fukushima crisis extends far past the island nation's shores, says a U.S. report issued on the disaster's third anniversary.

More than a dozen other countries enacted safety reforms at nonmilitary atomic sites following the severe damage inflicted on Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the earthquake and tsunami of Mar. 11, 2011, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office. The failure of auxiliary power systems at the facility led to cooling-system failures and meltdowns in three of its six reactors, allowing radioactive material to escape into the air and neighboring sea.

Governments with established nuclear-energy programs have responded in part by conducting safety checks, including comprehensive "stress tests" that can scrutinize a facility's ability to withstand an extremist assault, the assessment indicates.

The report's authors said nuclear-safety planners are now "considering previously unimagined accident scenarios," including disasters "that could involve multiple reactors at a single power plant."

"In addition, new requirements for emergency equipment, such as backup electric generators, in case of the loss of off-site power, as occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are an area of focus among the regulatory bodies in GAO’s review," the auditors wrote.

The investigators said some areas are still in need of improvement, including an international "peer-review" framework to help scrutinize how well various states are complying with International Atomic Energy Agency safety guidelines. That system, auditors wrote, lacks a mechanism for following up on whether vetted governments follow through on recommendations.

GAO officials said the U.S. State Department and Nuclear Regulatory Commission should "encourage" the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency "to systematically track the status of recommendations made by IAEA peer review missions."

The congressional report examined nuclear-policy responses to the Fukushima disaster in 16 countries, and identified new reforms in all of them: Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

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