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Chief Nuclear Inspector reports on lessons from Fukushima

13 October 2011

An analysis of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident reveals no fundamental safety weaknesses in the UK’s nuclear industry but concludes that by learning lessons it can be made even safer. Mike Weightman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations and Executive Head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, has published a report in which he points to Government, industry and regulators to review 38 areas where he concludes lessons can be learned in the UK from the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Post accident photograph of reactor units 1-4 at Fukushima-1

These include: reliance on off-site infrastructure such as the electrical grid supply in extreme events, emergency response arrangements, layout of plant, risks associated with flooding, planning controls around nuclear facilities and prioritising safety reviews.
 

The report, requested by the UK Government, was published in interim form on 18 May. Since then, Dr Weightman has drawn on national and international expert opinion, and led a fact-finding mission to Japan in June - including a visit to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant - to compile a thorough analysis of the evidence that has emerged to date.

"I remain confident that our UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses. The Office for Nuclear Regulation already requires protection of nuclear sites against the worst-case scenarios that are predictable for the UK. But we are not complacent. Our philosophy is one of continuous improvement. No matter how high our standards, the quest for improvement must never stop. We will ensure lessons are learned from Fukushima. Action has already been taken in many cases, with work under way to further enhance safety at UK sites.

"While it is only six months since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I am satisfied we are in a position to have drawn reliable conclusions and identified the main lessons to improve safety. Detailed technical information will no doubt continue to emerge and the Office for Nuclear Regulation will continue to monitor it and take action as necessary.

"I led a team of international nuclear experts on a fact-finding mission to Japan in June and we visited Fukushima Dai-ichi. We had access to much detailed information, and met and talked to the workers who took extraordinary and brave actions to deal with the crisis. The findings from this International Atomic Energy Agency mission, from the detailed technical reports the Japanese Government has supplied, and from other evidence submitted to me, have informed my report to the Secretary of State."

The report can be downloaded here.

[The illustration above is taken from page 40 of the report]


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