ec. 9 (Bloomberg) — Nine months after the worst nuclear disaster in decades, the world’s atomic-energy watchdog has yet to dedicate additional money to improve reactor safety.
The delay has prompted the U.S. to call for the International Atomic Energy Agency to prepare a budget for its so-called action plan and to clarify how it will respond to future nuclear emergencies. The United Nations-funded agency said the allocation will be determined after a team draws up the “main activities associated with the action plan,” according to a Dec. 5 statement to Bloomberg News. Money wasn’t included in the IAEA’s budget agreed to in September.
The IAEA “accepted for years the overlap between regulation and industry in Japan,” said Johannis Noeggerath, president of Switzerland’s Society of Nuclear Professionals and safety director for the country’s Leibstadt reactor. “They have a safety culture problem.”
The IAEA has been tarnished by a series of nuclear-safety mishaps, including the combustion of plutonium in 2009 at an Austrian lab and a mishandled vial that contaminated part of a Belgian facility in 2011, according to the agency.
One IAEA plant inspector fell into a Czech nuclear-fuel cooling pond in 2007, according to four officials who declined to be identified. The agency won’t make public a full list of incidents involving its own staff.
“IAEA inspectors and field workers are largely on their own when it comes to safely carrying out their jobs,” said Robert Kelley, a former IAEA director who led inspections in Iraq. “They receive little guidance or support and they are very dependent on the facilities they are inspecting to protect their health.”
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