IAEA Discusses Safety Standards More than 150 nations are gathering this week at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to look at safety standards for nuclear power reactors in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The IAEA does not have the authority to either set safety standards or enforce them, and most nations want that to remain a national responsibility. But the Fukushima disaster has motivated some nations to initiate a process that could lead to better safety practices worldwide.
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IAEA Discusses Safety Standards

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IAEA Discusses Safety Standards

IAEA Discusses Safety Standards

IAEA Discusses Safety Standards

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More than 150 nations are gathering this week at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to look at safety standards for nuclear power reactors in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The IAEA does not have the authority to either set safety standards or enforce them, and most nations want that to remain a national responsibility. But the Fukushima disaster has motivated some nations to initiate a process that could lead to better safety practices worldwide.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

But as NPR's Mike Shuster reports, the Fukushima disaster has motivated some nations to consider improving standards worldwide.

MIKE SHUSTER: In a news conference after the meeting began, Amano, who is director general of the IAEA, insisted the Fukushima disaster has motivated the international community to pay closer attention to nuclear safety.

D: I sense there is a very firm determination on the part of IAEA member states to strengthen safety.

SHUSTER: The agency has to be seen responding aggressively to the Fukushima disaster, says Antonio Guerreiro, Brazil's representative in Vienna and chairman of this week's meeting. The stakes are too high.

NORRIS: There are more than 400 nuclear power plants across the world in 30 countries or so. And it is extremely important for governments, OK, to reassure their public opinions that they are taking seriously what happened in Japan.

SHUSTER: But guidelines are just that, guidelines, says George Perkovich, an expert on nuclear power issues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

D: The IAEA can't mandate international safety standards. And there aren't really mandated international safety standards. So you have to have meetings like this to try to educate and motivate many different actors to decide that, yes, things other than expense may be more important. In other words, safety may be more important, you know, than getting the lowest cost or bid.

SHUSTER: But that runs into the perpetual dilemma for the nuclear power industry, says David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security.

D: Cost is always factored in, and safety has often suffered because of that. And so, I hope that the accident will be kind of a boost to the safety side that says, look, we really do have to improve the safety of these things and consider essentially very unusual and unexpected accidents.

SHUSTER: Mike Shuster, NPR News.

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