IAEA appeals for funds for nuclear safety plan

IAEA appeals for funds for nuclear safety plan

Vienna: The UN atomic agency urged states on Monday to provide extra funding to help implement measures to boost global nuclear safety in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima accident - a request some may balk at amid growing economic worries in the world.

The annual member state gathering of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency last week endorsed an IAEA action plan to help ensure there is no repeat of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said the plan, which outlines a series of voluntary measures, required “immediate follow-up" and that he was setting up a special Nuclear Safety Action Team within the Vienna-based UN body for this purpose.

“Meeting new and expanding demands for assistance from member states in nuclear safety, as well as in other areas, will require an increase in the agency’s resources," he told a one-day session of the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board.

“I encourage all countries in a position to do so to make additional resources available to the agency."

Amano did not give details on how much extra funding was required for implementation of the plan, which some states have criticised for not going far enough in strengthening global nuclear safety.

Even before Fukushima added to its workload, experts warned that budget austerity in member states may block funding that is required by the IAEA to deal with growing demand for atomic energy and the attendant risk of weapons proliferation.

The bulk of funding for the IAEA, which has more than 2,300 staff, comes from Western member states on a voluntary basis.

For 2010, the agency secured a budget increase of 2.7% in real terms to €315 million ($434.1 million), but this was considerably less than it had sought.

At a time of economic problems squeezing government finances, some European states have resisted budget hikes for the agency although the United States has increased contributions in recent years.

The Fukushima disaster, caused by a huge earthquake and a massive tsunami, spurred a rethink about nuclear energy worldwide and calls for more concerted measures, including beefed-up international safety checks of reactors.

The IAEA plan calls on countries to promptly carry out assessments of their nuclear power plants on how they would be able to withstand extreme natural hazards as well as steps to strengthen emergency preparedness and information.

Amano said some states had already requested IAEA reviews.

“At the request of Japan, for example, I’m preparing to dispatch a mission whose mandate will include assisting with plans for the remediation of large areas contaminated as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi accident," he said.