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Posted 22 June 2011


WMO Addresses Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety

The World Meteorological Organization’s Environmental Emergency Response system functioned effectively in forecasting and monitoring the spread of radioactive material in the aftermath of the earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear accident in Japan. But the crisis also highlighted the need for more effective provision and use of scientific data and improved international coordination and communication, according to a WMO presentation to the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In an address today on “Lessons Learned in Responding to the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Stations: The Way Forward,” Geoff Love, Director of WMO’s Weather and Disaster Risk Reduction Department, said that national meteorological services have an important contribution to make in the response to all cross-border environmental emergencies because of their 24/7 monitoring and operational activities and their links to regional and global information systems and emergency services.

At the request of the IAEA, WMO activated its Environmental Emergency Response mechanism on 11 March 2011 to provide meteorological information to designated authorities on the likely evolution of the radioactive cloud that was accidentally released from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Operating on a 24/7 basis, WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres in Asia (Beijing, China,Tokyo, Japan, and Obninsk, Russian Federation) issued forecast charts of the dispersion of the nuclear material from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on a routine basis until they were no longer required. WMO’s remaining five Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres in other parts of the world also prepared dispersion charts for intercomparison and validation purposes.

WMO also made arrangements with the ZAMG, Meteorological Service of Austria, to provide meteorological support to the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre in Vienna while arrangements were made with MétéoSwiss, the Meteorological Service of Switzerland, to provide meteorological support to the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Love said that lessons learned included the following:

  • The Environmental Emergency Response mechanism worked well. The dispersion charts provided decision makers with scientifically sound estimates of the dispersion of the nuclear material in the atmosphere. This said, it is time to review the products, and procedures for issuing these in the light of experiences during the event and taking account of recent developments in both the science and technologies used in generating the products.
  • A particular proble for users of the dispersion charts was the use of an arbitrary concentration scale. The need for the arbitrary scale arises because the details of the source term for the emission of the radioactive material was not known. It is clear that adequate monitoring systems should be located around each nuclear power plant so that the source term is known accurately and quickly and there should be more coordination between the nuclear power industry and responsible international agencies for exchanging and using this information.
  • Standard procedures urgently need to be updated for assessing the hydrological and meteorological hazards, including climate change, for existing and proposed nuclear power stations.

IAEA Member States adopted a declaration at the five-day ministerial conference (20-24 May). The declaration called for a number of improvements to global nuclear safety, while stressing the need to receive from Japan and the IAEA a comprehensive and fully transparent assessment of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident to be able to act upon the lessons learned, including a review of the relevant IAEA safety standards, in particular those pertaining to multiple severe hazards.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has launched a UN system-wide study on the implications of the accident, to be discussed at the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security on 22 September 2011 during the U.N. General Assembly.

Presentation by Geoff Love, Director, Weather and Disaster Risk Reduction Services




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