Nuclear Experts Form International Safety Group

VIENNA, Austria, March 31, 2004 (ENS) - Experts from 15 countries have joined to form a new International Nuclear Safety Group to provide authoritative advice and guidance on safety approaches, policies and principles at nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities. Dr. Richard Meserve, chairman of the group, announced its existence Friday at a press briefing in Vienna.


Dr. Richard Meserve of the United States (Photo courtesy Carnegie Institution)
"The evolution of nuclear safety is increasingly international," said Meserve, who formerly chaired the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and now heads the Carnegie Institution. He said the new group will work to "identify major safety issues and recommend ways and means to resolve them."

Members of the group are from Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, Spain, the United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, South Korea,Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Econmic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Meserve says the group will be focused on serving the United Nations's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the nuclear community, and the public.

The IAEA will serve as the group's secretariat, under the office of Ken Brockman, director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety.

Meserve says the experts have high professional competence in fields of safety working in regulatory organizations, research and academic institutions, and the nuclear industry.


Nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania on the Ohio River about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy U.S. Energy Department)
They will focus on fundamental safety issues, and current and emerging matters relevant to the safety of nuclear power plants, research reactors, and other nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

Issues of nuclear security will be addressed insofar as they relate to safety at these installations.

The group was newly formed at the request of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Its first meeting took place at the IAEA in late October 2003, and additional meetings were held in Vienna last week. Meetings are planned twice a year, with the next scheduled in Vienna this November.

Two conferences are set for this year that are expected to foster an exchange of information among countries with civilian nuclear capability.

"Fifty Years of Nuclear Power - the Next Fifty Years" wil be held in Moscow from June 27 to July 2. It marks two 50th year anniversaries - the first production of electricity by nuclear power for a national grid, which took place in Obninsk, Russia in June 1954. In the United States the first large nuclear power plant went online at Shippingport, Pennsylvania in 1958.

The second milestone is the 50th anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution that called for international co-operation in developing the peaceful uses of atomic energy, expressing “the hope that the International Atomic Energy Agency will be established without delay” and declaring “the interest and concern of the General Assembly in helping in every feasible way to promote the peaceful applications of atomic energy.”


Alexandr Rumyantsev says nuclear energy's share of the Russian electricity total will rise, and Russia will build new facilities, although not as quickly as he would like. (Photo courtesy Expert)
Fifty years later, the administration of Russia's atomic energy program is undergoing fundamental changes. Twelve years of public protests have resulted in the deconstruction of the ministry that lobbied for the interests of the nuclear industry.

The Ministry of Atomic Power of Russia (Minatom) has been disbanded by newly elected President Vladimir Putin, and replaced by the Federal Agency of Atomic Power under the Ministry for Industry and Energy. It will be headed by Alexandr Rumyantsev, former Minatom minister, and will be responsible for non-weapons issues, such as construction and decommissioning of reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and science.

Nuclear weapons issues will be handled by the Russian Ministry of Defense headed by Sergey Ivanov and controlled by President Putin directly.

In October, safety at civilian nuclear plants will be the subject of an international conference in Beijing."Topical Issues in Nuclear Installation Safety: Continuous Improvement of Nuclear Safety in a Changing World," is scheduled from October 18 - 22.

The conference will develop an international consensus on the basic approaches for dealing with nuclear safety, and will propose recommendations for future activities for the IAEA, nuclear utilities and regulatory authorities, and emerging issues with international implications.