Safety remains nuclear power’s greatest post-Fukushima challenge

March 12, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meshkati, holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Photo: Najmedin Meshkati

As long as commercial nuclear power plants operate anywhere in the world, the authors of an article published this week on The Conversation believe it is critical for all nations to learn from what happened at Fukushima and continue doubling down on nuclear safety. But the authors, Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati, say that a decade after the accident, the nuclear industry has yet to fully to address safety concerns that Fukushima exposed; the authors assign an “incomplete” grade to global nuclear safety.

In their article, Kurokawa and Meshkati write that the most urgent priority is developing tough, system-oriented nuclear safety standards, strong safety cultures, and much closer cooperation between countries and their independent regulators. They also believe that the International Atomic Energy Agency should urge its member states to find a balance between national sovereignty and international responsibility when it comes to operating nuclear power reactors in their territories.

Credentials: Kurokawa, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, chaired an independent national commission created by the Japan legislature to investigate the root causes of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Meshkati, professor of engineering and international relations at the University of Southern California, served as a member and technical adviser to a committee appointed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to identify lessons from this event for making U.S. nuclear plants safer and more secure.

They said it: “The most crucial lesson we see is the need to counteract nuclear nationalism and isolationism,” the authors state, regarding nuclear energy’s future. “Ensuring close cooperation between countries developing nuclear projects is essential today as the forces of populism, nationalism, and antiglobalism spread.”

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