Jun. 10, 2011
On June 8, the Wall Street Journal reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes itself as “the world’s center of cooperation in the nuclear field”, has come under fire for its handling of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi crisis. NGOs accuse them of whitewashing, while officials from G8 countries have expressed concerns that the IAEA has been slow in providing clear information about the Fukushima radiation release and the situation at the Daiichi plant. The organization is also accused of not being sufficiently critical of the Japanese government.
The WSJ reports that diplomats have expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest and “questioned the IAEA’s ability to serve as a global nuclear safety watchdog and its ability to handle a nuclear disaster, particularly when most of its resources are dedicated to promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy, a mandate from its founding in 1957.” Many feel that since the IAEA exists to promote nuclear power, representatives have incentives to play down the seriousness of the situation in Fukushima and the potential for widespread public health effects. The Guardian has reported fierce criticism from former Soviet nuclear experts who felt the IAEA to be ineffective in the aftermath of Chernobyl. Iouli Andreev, a scientist who participated in the Chernobyl clean-up, describes the organization as negligent and is quoted as saying: “After Chernobyl, all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry. But industry doesn’t like it.”
Ironically, this close relationship between industry and the major international regulatory body is mirrored domestically in Japan where the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is responsible both for overseeing and for promoting nuclear power.