Members of the media wearing protective suits and masks are escorted by Tokyo Electric Power Co employees at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan.  Picture: REUTERS
Members of the media wearing protective suits and masks are escorted by Tokyo Electric Power Co employees at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. Picture: REUTERS

KORIYAMA — AN independent, effective and expert regulator must be heard in case of a nuclear emergency, delegates at the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety heard on Monday.

Held in Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, the conference aims, among other things, to dispel myths that have arisen about the Fukushima nuclear accident and its effects on the surrounding region.

The conference re-emphasised the point that radiation does not respect national borders.

"When communicating radiation protection issues to the public, it must be recognised that the language used by experts in the field is completely foreign to a general audience," a working session on radiation said.

"It is very important to have early, routine communication and to have ‘one voice’ based on ‘good science’. Extreme views based on ‘poor science’ can create unwarranted alarm and can result in real harm," the working session on radiation concluded," it said.

"Since the accident at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant member states and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been working ceaselessly to learn lessons, and to take actions to review the safety of nuclear installations and to ensure that nuclear safety improvements, where needed, are made in a timely manner," said a working group that had been tasked with reflecting on lessons learnt from the disaster.

"It is particularly important and reassuring that the process initiated by Member States immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi accident to review site hazards and to complete complementary safety assessments (through national reviews or ‘stress tests’) has now been largely completed.

"The results of these assessments, undertaken to ensure plant robustness to extreme events, have been reported to national authorities and international organisations, and where Member States have identified the need for improvements, these have been prioritised and resourced," the group said.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident reminded participants of the need to have an independent (in law, practice and culture) effective expert regulator that is credible, trusted, competent and adequately resourced.

"All of this is based on a fundamental approach to nuclear safety, namely, that of continuous improvement — no matter how high the standards, the quest for improvement must never cease," it concluded.

The working group on emergency response said sound preparedness and effective response measures to nuclear or radiological emergencies were essential to avoid or minimise the potentially catastrophic impact of such events.

"The Fukushima Daiichi accident reinforced the importance of emergency preparedness and response at all levels — local, national and international," the group said.

South Africa was one of the more than 100 countries that sent a delegation to the conference, which runs from from December 15 to 17. A follow-up conference will be held in Canada next year.

Helmo’s trip to Japan and accommodation in Japan was sponsored by the Japanese government.