Nuclear Power After Tsunami

22 june 2011

Fukushima I NPP Accident: Notes on the Margins of Chernobyl Lessons

Alexander Koldobsky is Deputy Director of the Institute of International Relations at the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI. He holds a Doctorate in Physics and Mathematics.

Resume: Fukushima has demonstrated that the days when a country hit by a nuclear accident deals with the consequences on its own are gone. The internationalization of challenges facing the world nuclear power industry requires that the nuclear community internationalize the response – the more so in security matters and, in particular, in such emergencies as nuclear accidents.

A quarter of a century before the Fukushima events, on April 26, 1986, a reactor blew up at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. That disaster in terms of the severity of its consequences surpassed all other nuclear and radiation accidents in the “atomic history” of humanity many times over and drew a border line in the history of the nuclear industry between “before” and “after.” Nowadays the analysis of any serious nuclear accident can be conducted only in the context of how well (or badly) the lessons of Chernobyl have been learned, if at all. Fukushima is no exception.

The pre-Chernobyl era of the nuclear power industry was a time of “nuclear romanticism,” when there was no understanding of the simple truth that an unprecedented degree of penetration into the depths of the universe implies special attention to safety. Of course, some rules and requirements did exist, but they operated alongside many others (economic, infrastructural, technical, administrative, social, etc.), quite often not even being “the first among equals.”

The chances of “getting away with it” stayed high as long as nuclear power remained a technological experiment – a large-scale one, but still an experiment. The number of nuclear power reactors (NPR) was relatively small and their contribution to overall energy production, moderate, which allowed for state-of-the-art, hand-made approach to personnel training.

In those circumstances, “the fate stayed merciful,” by virtue of purely probabilistic factors, even in case of fairly serious flaws in the early designs of NPRs and mistakes in selecting sites for first-generation power plants. There followed some “dizziness with success” – the absence of large-scale nuclear or radiation accidents was interpreted as proof that such accidents are impossible in principle.

Meanwhile, the rapid development of the nuclear power industry in the 1970s inevitably affected the quality of personnel training. In the meantime, the degree of nuclear power plants’ technical safety increased only slightly, and overly optimistic assessments of risks kept breeding errors in the selection of sites.

The consequences were quick to follow. The first grave accident with a core meltdown in a powerful reactor occurred in the United States (Three Mile Island) in 1979. Inadequate technology and mistakes by personnel were the reason. In other words, of the three above-mentioned risk factors (site, technology, personnel) two worked. In that case a large-scale escape of radioactive substances into the environment was avoided, and probably this explains why the measures that followed were essentially confined to upgrading some NPP systems to eliminate the flaws that had led to the accident. A brief surge of anxiety gave way to complacency. In the meantime, NPRs continued to mushroom worldwide.

The Chernobyl disaster and its severe consequences did away with both complacency and, unfortunately, rapid growth of nuclear power engineering – for as long as twenty years.

 

BATTLE FOR SAFETY

This time the conclusions derived were quite adequate. So were the measures taken.

Formally, the Chernobyl disaster took place due to the very same two factors that caused the Three Mile Island accident (equipment and personnel). But in the American case personnel committed mistakes, whereas the participants in the so-called “reactor experiment” at the ill-fated fourth reactor at Chernobyl violated all rules of operation as they successively switched off all safety systems, thus letting the reactor’s technical flaws manifest themselves to the full extent – this by no means can be called a string of errors. It was an instance of criminal light-mindedness, criminal negligence and criminal irresponsibility. Such a thing could happen only in a context of fatal underestimation of the meaning and importance of safety.

These categories underwent immediate and drastic revision not only in the Soviet Union but throughout the world as well. Now, at all stages of the nuclear reactor’s life cycle (feasibility studies, development, design, construction work, operation and closure) the “safety first” principle remains top priority.

There was a fundamental revision of the basic concept of requirements for the individual elements of the operator-reactor system and of their relationship. The technical implementation of passive safety features (independent of human intervention) became a guideline in upgrading the existing reactors and designing new ones. The degree of an operator’s professional competence and aptitude began to be determined through a series of routine training sessions, tests of knowledge and skills at full-scale simulators and strict certification procedures. The paradigm “people must be protected from equipment,” which for decades had been dominant in the operator-reactor relationship, was complemented with a fundamentally important ending “... and equipment must be protected from people.”

Almost all licensing and supervisory procedures related to nuclear technologies were sharply tightened, which objectively worsened the economic performance of the nuclear industry and reduced its competitiveness. But there was no other way of going about this business, and everybody was aware of that.

There emerged entirely new fields of science and engineering, in particular – modern methods of probabilistic safety analysis. This allowed estimating quantitatively and reducing manifold the probability of severe reactor accidents with a core meltdown. For pre-Chernobyl NPRs of the first generation such probability was approximately 10-4 per reactor a year (one incident in ten thousand years, or, if rounded to the nearest integer, two cases per 400 reactors in 40 years). Indeed, there had been two such accidents – Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. After the general mandatory upgrading of such NPRs, the probability was reduced by a factor of ten, to 10-5.

For the newly built NPRs of generation “3+” it was lowered by about four orders of magnitude – to 10-8 (1 case per 100 million years). With the likely presence of 500 NPRs in the world by 2050 (currently there are 438 of them), this value will correspond to one accident per 200,000 years, which fully meets the modern concepts of technological security.

Finally, the international nuclear community came to understand the enduring axiom that “disaster at one nuclear power plant spells disaster for all nuclear power plants,” and decisive steps were taken towards internationalizing and legally institutionalizing international efforts to dramatically improve safety. This was especially important for the Soviet Union, whose nuclear power industry had been developing in de facto international isolation due to the tough regime of information secrecy.

International nuclear law, initially a combination of individual documents, became finally transformed into a systemic structure of security management (an achievement for which the IAEA largely takes the credit). There emerged and became active nongovernmental nuclear organizations, which allowed coupling the professional expertise of atomic scientists of different countries and their sincere desire for mutual support with prompt planning and most useful activities, which is not always possible to achieve at the inter-state level. Here, special mention should be made of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), founded in 1989, which put into practice a very successful system of reciprocal peer reviews, highly useful for improving the safety.

A great deal was accomplished, indeed – but not everything that should have been.

One risk factor remained ignored – the underestimation of risks of exposure to environmental factors for some sites of pre-Chernobyl NPRs, such as those built in the early 1970s at Fukushima. For obvious reasons nothing could be done about them – such power plants could only be shut down.

However, they were not – although that should have been done, and not only there, and not only in Japan. A risk ignored is a problem in waiting. Fukushima I closed down by itself. Everybody knows how. And as it did, there stood out graphically other systemic opportunities for safety improvements of nuclear power plants worldwide, which after the Chernobyl disaster had been used ever more intensively, but then were neglected somehow.

WILL THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY BE HARMED?

Will the Fukushima events affect the development of the world nuclear industry? And if yes, where and how? In the most general sense – yes, of course, they will. A radiation accident rated 6 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the highest – seventh – level was awarded only to Chernobyl) cannot but leave a trace. And the most important of these effects will be a new severe blow on the social prestige of nuclear technologies, a new round of seemingly obsolete and irrelevant discussions about the acceptability of nuclear energy, and a new surge of antinuclear shamanistic rites in the media and public politics.

There are some truly burning questions on today’s agenda: Will nuclear power facilities be expanded or at least preserved in the countries where they have become (or are becoming) an integral part of the “industrial-technological landscape”? Will they be created from scratch in countries where they do not exist? What is the real worth of numerous statements by politicians and experts, overt and “covert” information in the media and Internet gossip that Country X is suspending its nuclear program, that Country Y is closing down all of its nuclear power reactors, and that Country Z has turned its back on nuclear power once and for all, and so forth?

First of all, there is no systemic threat to the world nuclear power industry. Its development may have pauses now and then, but attempts to “close it down” will not work. It is no longer a large-scale technological experiment, in contrast to what it was 25 years ago. It is an integral feature of the global “industrial-technological landscape,” and it has firmly taken its niche in the global energy sector. This, naturally, does not exclude that the fate of the nuclear power industry in different states may be different. In each case it is necessary to take into account a range of circumstances – technological, economic, infrastructural, social, environmental, political, etc., and consider them as tightly intertwined elements of one whole.

For example, the extremely high energy yield of nuclear fuel is a fundamental physical feature of the nuclear power industry, which greatly simplifies the industry’s logistics. The main technical feature of modern nuclear reactors is that they are not very apt for variable power operation in the situation where their sole purpose is electricity production, which imposes certain restrictions on the share of nuclear generation. The main environmental feature is the almost complete absence of greenhouse gases and general industrial contaminants (soot, dust-smoke aerosols, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and highly carcinogenic organic compounds), as well as huge amounts of highly toxic slag heaps. Finally, the social feature – the existence, alongside the nuclear power plants proper, of major technological support complexes that employ tens of thousands of highly skilled personnel.

The conclusion that readily offers itself is this: for countries and regions relatively small in area, with high population density, scarce reserves of fossil fuel, a high degree of overall economic and technological development, isolation of national energy systems, well-established transport infrastructures and a large share of nuclear generation, a decision to abandon nuclear power would be tantamount to a national catastrophe. This is true of the Republic of Korea (20 NPRs, 35%-share of nuclear generation), Taiwan (6 and 21%), and Japan (50, without Fukushima I, 29%).

In these countries, the Fukushima disaster may, firstly, accelerate the decommissioning of first-generation units (and, perhaps, some second-generation units as well) at sites that may be regarded as problem ones in the above-described sense, and secondly, it may entail technical improvements in reactors’ emergency cooling systems (in particular, the installation of additional redundancy systems). But all this will be done without a fuss and hysteria.

Given very high specific energy consumption rates in these countries (in Korea, 6.5 MW/year per person; in Taiwan – 8.8; and in Japan - 8.2), in conjunction with stabilized population, any further growth in overall generation is hardly a must. Compensating for the nuclear power plants that have to be shut down at the end of their life cycle would be quite enough. But this substitution will occur almost exclusively in the process of building new NPRs. These countries’ opportunities for an engineering maneuver in the modernization of their energy supply systems are extremely limited. In Japan, which will have to fight consequences of a terrible natural disaster, which caused the Fukushima accident, such opportunities do not exist at all. The country needs energy as badly as it needs air. And it needs a lot of energy. Hopelessness and doom are the sole alternative.

The condition of energy industries in the two Asian giants (China and India) is different. Their key problem is meager specific energy consumption rates (1.2 MW/year and 0.4 MW/year per person respectively). Hence the main objective is a sharp increase in the overall level of generation, and the sooner the better. But in case nuclear power is abandoned in both countries, there is no realistic way of achieving that goal other than by burning more coal. And then a myriad of problems will emerge – primarily those of transportation (sparse networks of railway lines and their low throughput) and of ecology (an immeasurable increase in greenhouse, polluting and toxic emissions).

The conclusion is: there is no systemic alternative to rapid growth in nuclear generation in China and India, the more so since its current share in both states is tiny (1.9% and 2.2% respectively). This fact is reflected in the respective national plans for nuclear power development. One can hardly expect the countries which rank high in the world in terms of nuclear power reactors under construction (China is first with 20 reactors and India, third with five) to curtail their nuclear programs.

In the United States, a country that has the largest nuclear power industry in the world, the total number of NPRs (about 100) will not be reduced after Fukushima; the share of nuclear generation will remain roughly unchanged or will be reduced insignificantly, and the decommissioned old units will be mostly replaced with new ones.

The future of a rather motley nuclear landscape in Western Europe depends on many factors, among which several ones stand out.

First, the presence of an atomic giant – France – in the very heart of the region. The number of NPRs there (59, second place in the world after the United States) is only slightly inferior to that in all other countries in Western and Central Europe combined (excluding Russia and Ukraine – 80), and the record-large (objectively, even excessive) share of nuclear generation (76%) makes the export of electricity very profitable. Paris has already stated quite clearly that the Fukushima accident will have no effect on the operation and further development of the national nuclear power industry.

Second, the position of the UK (19 NPRs, second place in Western Europe), which, as can be concluded from statements by its leadership, wants to basically maintain the share of nuclear generation (about 18%). For this, London is to decommission a substantial portion of older power plants, replacing them with new ones in cooperation with, most likely, France (and, possibly, the U.S.). This will open up great prospects not only for nuclear power as such, but also for European and world nuclear power engineering.

Third, the well-developed pan-European network infrastructure provides ample opportunities for commercial energy exchange in Europe, to a great extent by virtue of the high (34%) share of nuclear generation in the thirteen countries that have nuclear power plants (excluding France, Russia, Ukraine and the UK). In combination with the French nuclear power capacity, this allows the European states that do not have nuclear power facilities to stay calm. Moreover, some countries (Italy, Austria and Greece) can even take the liberty of staging political advocacy campaigns against nuclear energy (befitting the Fukushima events) to perform the same old song and dance “We are scared, we are against, we shall never permit it.”

At this point one should take note of the case of Germany – a country with great, unique history of science, engineering and education, where 17 NPRs account for about a quarter of total electricity generation. Nonetheless, the peculiarities of political and informational processes there, along with an inadequate perception of the real capabilities of modern energy technologies and know-hows, have led it to a surprising result. German society has reached a degree of mass technological aberrations and universal radiophobia that is completely inexplicable in terms of elementary logic, which leads to anti-atomic rampage, reminiscent of the medieval witch hunt.

An immediate consequence of the Fukushima accident in continental Western Europe will be not just possible, but possibly imminent closure of 8 to 12 obsolete NPRs (5-8% of all those available), without being replaced by new ones. This is true primarily of Germany and some neighboring countries (Belgium and the Netherlands), which have contracted the “antinuclear virus,” too.

However, this is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the general condition and structure of the West European energy industry. The further march of events is less predictable – a certain role can be played by both objective circumstances and the bizarre mixture of political and environmental phobias (alongside radiophobia), to which modern enlightened Europe is surprisingly vulnerable. Here one finds the fear of the “Russian Bear gas bondage,” “an imminent and early death from global warming,” etc.

In discussing the influence of the Fukushima events on the development of the nuclear power industry in Russia one should mention first and foremost the political leadership’s very strong grip on this process. In this connection it is appropriate to recall the first post-Chernobyl years, when incomprehensible (and in some cases – frankly negative) attitude of the Russian political establishment to the nuclear industry was creating real prerequisites for its actual loss.

Fortunately, the situation is quite different now. The incumbent Russian leadership is perfectly aware of the fact that nuclear power engineering is perhaps the country’s only really existing technology which is at the forefront of world development (and in some cases – ahead of it), and which at the same time has a unique and innovative potential. Consequently, it is difficult to imagine a better candidate for the driving force of national technological modernization. That the latter is an urgent need draws no objections from any of the more or less significant political forces and personalities. Importantly, the risk that this fundamental position may undergo revision in preparations for the forthcoming elections in 2011-2012 or after them is practically equal to zero.

Of course, this does not mean that Russia has no “anti-nuclear” lobby seeking to take advantage of the existing (and objectively totally unfounded) fears and concerns of the population. But anti-nuclear slogans alone cannot be a political program; they can become only part of it, and certainly not the most important one. And the political programs of “anti-nuclear” parties and associations have no chances, by virtue of very many reasons, of getting massive electoral support. These parties and groups are often suspected of being handled and supported materially from outside the country, which in Russia is close to political suicide.

In a word, rapid development of the nuclear industry in Russia today is a reality that has no practical alternatives. This is clearly seen in Russia’s second place in the world, after China, by the number of NPRs under construction (ten). Therefore Fukushima will affect Russia’s nuclear energy only at the level of additional safety probes into the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, which, of course, are never redundant.

Of great importance is the fact that Russian experts believe that the level of security at nuclear power plants of domestic design and workmanship is one of the highest in the world. And for good reason – sometimes technical solutions aimed at increasing this level even slightly harm economic performance. But in the context of the “safety first” concept this approach is more than justified.

LESSONS FROM DISASTERS AND MYTHOLOGY

Now a few words about the unlearned lessons of Chernobyl and the things that Fukushima has taught. Up to this day there has been no success in attempts to adopt common restrictions mandatory for all states on the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in regions with natural risks.

The terms “restriction” and “ban” are not identical. In choosing sites for nuclear power plants, the challenge is to establish a correlation between the level of natural risks and the amount of measures needed to ensure the proper degree of safety. Such an assessment should be made on the basis of a single, universally accepted methodology (which is yet to be established) by an international panel of qualified experts.

At the same time, the said methodology should contain the criteria of absolute unsuitability of a site (or even region) for building and operating nuclear power plants – by analogy, for example, with the ban that Russian legislation imposes on the construction of nuclear power plants in regions with a significant estimated probability of an earthquake with a magnitude of eight points and more on the Richter scale. And first of all, unconditional bans are to be established where there is a possibility of synergistic effects of two or more factors from natural hazards at a time. Fukushima, where such an effect fully manifested itself as a combination of earth tremors and a tsunami, was a vivid testimony to this.

The development of nuclear power engineering is proceeding amid society’s obvious misjudgment of the risks of nuclear power in comparison with other technologies. Absolutely safe technologies do not exist. In this sense, posing such a requirement to any technology would be tantamount to demanding a ban on it. Bearing in mind the technological nature of modern society, at the end of this “path to a safe haven” one can see not a paradise, but caves, hides and stone axes.

Alas, modern technologies are dangerous. Just one disaster at a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India (1984) claimed 3,800 lives within a matter of minutes. The explosion of a gas pipeline in Russia’s Bashkiria (1989) killed, according to various sources, about 800. All victims of gas fires, explosions and poisonings are too numerous to count. In 2010, more than 26,500 people died in Russia in road accidents alone. This sad list can be prolonged easily.

What about “energy alternatives,” which some ecological hotheads have been calling for to replace nuclear power – preferably right away?

Here is the well-established “price” of the global coal industry – about seven dead workers per million tonnes of coal mined. Or take human losses in just two dam disasters: Vajont, Italy (1963) – more than 2,100 dead, and Morvi, India (1979) – about 15,000 dead (!). And the world has seen more than 20 major accidents in the hydropower industry (with over 40 fatalities each) in the past 50 years. It is absolutely inappropriate to try to persuade the people of Russia to agree with the feasibility of such an “energy counterrevolution” after the very recent tragedy at the coalmine Raspadskaya and the Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydro (91 deaths and 75 deaths respectively). However, the public never raises the question of a significant limitation, let alone prohibition, of chemical engineering, motor transport, coal-fueled power industry, etc.

The Chernobyl disaster holds a special place in the history of nuclear power largely because it caused casualties: three died the moment the reactor exploded and 28 others, within three weeks of exposures incompatible with life and radiation burns. In the longer term, with varying degrees of probability, the exposure to radiation contributed, according to various estimates, to the premature death of another 20 to 50 people. As for the rumored “hundreds of thousands of deaths from radiation sickness as a result of Chernobyl,” this is nonsense not supported by absolutely any objective data, if not a malicious lie.

Other accidents at nuclear power plants were without casualties at all. There is no reason to wait for deaths from exposure to ionizing radiation related to the Fukushima accident. But the reaction to it by the population of Japan (where the radiation risks are generally minimal), in the United States and in Russia’s Far East (where they do not exist at all) makes one shake one’s head in amazement. How else can one respond, for example, to the panic buying of iodine-containing medicines and their subsequent erratic consumption, including external application to a large part of the body, which poses very real and immediate risk to health?

There is one more unlearned lesson of Chernobyl – clear underestimation of mass panic and actions due to inadequate assessment of radiation risks. In the meantime, according to an overwhelming majority of experts, radiophobia and psychosocial traumas that people may suffer in case of nuclear accidents surpass those from radiation proper many times over. Chernobyl and Fukushima are vivid proofs.

Here is a really scary example. The additional annual exposure of the population in Central European countries due to the Chernobyl events in 1986-1987 was, on the average, about one-third of the normal background radiation, which completely rules out the possibility of negative effects on human health. But the surge in mass radiophobia, supported by unqualified doctors and cultivated by the media in those countries, brought about 100,000(!) abortions. The unborn population of a no small town was the price paid for human ignorance and far-fetched fears.

Only the opinion of professionals can be a reasonable basis for competent evaluation of the essence of a radiation accident and its probable consequences, and for advice to the public. It must be an opinion formulated in the course of expert analysis of the situation by specialists from different countries and based on only one criterion – professional competence. But even a professional will be unable to explain anything to people, to comfort them, let alone give some useful advice to decision makers and the general public without having reliable information. What distinguishes a professional from a layman is the ability to use such information to formulate meaningful conclusions about the causes of the accident, the probable scenario of its development and the optimal algorithm of action – to eliminate the effects and protect the population. What he cannot do is turn the absence of information into its presence.

However, even the availability of data as such is not everything that really counts. What conclusions can be drawn from a piece of “information” like this (there follows a literal quote from the media): “The content of radiation near the power plant has exceeded the normal rate a thousand times”? What does that “content of radiation” mean? Does the word “near” mean some spot on the power plant’s premises, a hundred meters away, a kilometer, or ten kilometers? What is this “normal rate” – the natural background, or some kind of maximum tolerance limit, or something else? In the meantime, it is easy to quote many other passages from mass media reports having the same content, often blatantly contradictory, overloaded with incompetent usage of terms, units of measurement, orders of magnitude, etc. in relation to the Fukushima accident. But most regrettable, however, is the absence of an “information standard,” from where a specialist could borrow the necessary data for a variety of purposes, in particular, to be able to explain to people why they can stay calm.

In a situation like this a professional, in the context of communication with the public (which is absolutely necessary in case of nuclear and radiation accidents), is no more effective than a dilettante. He is even less effective – a self-respecting expert will never voice an opinion on any issue without being absolutely sure of its validity. In contrast to this, a “green” dilettante will be yelling “That’s another Chernobyl!” without any pangs of remorse. Alas, this “certainty” will be understood by the people far better. It will look to them more convincing than doubts voiced by a specialist.

HOW TO MINIMIZE HARM

In this context one cannot but mention the fact that during the Fukushima accident the information policies of the operating company TEPCO were totally unacceptable. It is absolutely unclear what it meant when it issued messages like “the situation is difficult, but we are doing what we can.” But far more often it just kept quiet. Was it hoping to help people stay calm by concealing the truth? The experience of Chernobyl here is relevant as never before – there is no better way to incite panic than violating the most important and universal principle: “Do not be silent, tell the truth.” This is precisely what happened. Indeed, by the scale of information response the radiation effects of Fukushima (where, of course, nothing good happened, but at the same time there have been no deaths from overexposure and most likely will not be any) have exceeded many times over the truly horrible losses (probably, about 30,000 lives) of the Japanese people after the terrible strike of the elements. Was the aim to reduce the company’s financial and reputation losses? But it had been clear from the outset that the net effect would be the opposite!

It is hard to come up with a better response to TEPCO’s information policies than a surprise visit to its headquarters by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his angry question “What the hell is going on?” However, the place and role of TEPCO in the history of Fukushima is to be discussed later, they are related not only to information policies, and not in the positive sense. It is an urgent need to secure the development and adoption of formats and deadlines, uniform and compulsory for all states that use nuclear power, for disclosing technical and other information essential for security about accidents at nuclear power plants above level 4 on the INES scale.

This information should be strictly unified, arranged in the form of a standard questionnaire, with formal questions admitting of no ambiguous interpretations and requiring quantitative answers, and not general ones. The data for filling in the questionnaire must be gathered with the use of certified equipment and in the established mode of operation. The relevant methodological rules and technical support must be available at every nuclear power plant, and the information being gathered should be made public via the Internet in full and updated at strictly specified intervals.

And there should be no worries that it may be understood only by specialists. This is precisely what should be pursued. In addition, the very same information bulletins must carry comments by professionals (and only them!) based on the analysis of data obtained in the same way earlier – along with mandatory forecasts.

TEPCO and the authorities of the region have drawn much criticism, and not only with their information policies. Without discussing the purely technical aspects of the accident and the actions to eliminate its consequences, one can make an intermediate conclusion – in many cases those actions were far from optimal, to put it mildly.

In this particular case it would be at least unethical to complement this grim statement with direct reproaches. The people of a bereaved country that has experienced terrible grief have been fighting with the accident very bravely and they manage to carry on. In such circumstances it is difficult to act impeccably. Human beings are not machines, they have emotions, and they do get nervous and anxious once in a while. Moreover, in some cases, one could not but ask: Did TEPCO personnel have enough technical capabilities, strength and skills to deal with the accident, even in a completely cool state of mind?

To successfully overcome the consequences of nuclear accidents in each case of reasonable suspicion that the disaster may exceed level four on the INES scale, an international expert group must be formed urgently. It would immediately arrive at the site concerned, where it would participate in efforts to stop the accident from worsening and eliminate its impact in close contact with the authorities of the country and the management company. It would be the right and duty of that group to address any country in the world with a request for technical and other assistance, while the country where the disaster has occurred would retain its sovereign right to a final decision regarding all arising problems.

Fukushima has demonstrated that the days when a country hit by a nuclear accident deals with the consequences on its own are gone. The internationalization of challenges facing the world nuclear power industry requires that the nuclear community internationalize the response – the more so in security matters and, in particular, in such emergencies as nuclear accidents.

In this regard, two questions arise. First, how can the above-mentioned proposals be formalized legally? And, second, who will take the initiative?

As far as the first question is concerned, the development of relevant international agreements looks most promising. Along with the already existing ones, such as the Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, etc., they could significantly improve international nuclear law. Moreover, in some cases it would be rightful to negotiate not some new documents but addenda to the existing ones.

There is an answer to the second question, too. To implement any initiatives aimed at ensuring the safety of nuclear power facilities, the international nuclear community has an organization that perhaps no other professional community in the world is fortunate to have. The IAEA is more than just a reputable institution; it owes its strength to the high qualification of its experts and the universality of its approaches. It is likewise true that this highly respected international organization could be more insistent in matters of improving the safety of nuclear power facilities.

Apparently, it seems that Moscow can and must come out with a corresponding initiative within the IAEA framework. Russia experienced the tragedy of Chernobyl, and at the cost of enormous efforts it has created a new nuclear power industry, consistently practicing the safety-first principle, and has achieved internationally recognized results. This country is committed to developing nuclear power engineering in the future, keeping it on the list of national priority areas of technological development and international cooperation – and staying firmly committed to the supremacy of safety at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Nuclear power engineering, in contrast to many other technologies, is able to learn from its own mistakes. Diligent learning of the bitter lessons has created a situation where Chernobyl will not happen again. Now it is time to act to ensure that there be no more Fukushimas.

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