Ten years ago, a very strong earthquake and the subsequent tsunami destroyed the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). Safety systems failed and in several reactor units, the result was a core meltdown and the release of considerable quantities of radioactive substances.
The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) is participating in a two-day symposium in Japan: The “International Conference on Regulators Views and Priorities on Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection 10 Years After TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi NPS Accident” will take place in Tokyo on 28 and 29 November 2022. The focus of the international conference is on the lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident worldwide for nuclear safety, radiation protection and regulation.
“Fukushima demonstrated that we need to remain vigilant, to look out for possible vulnerabilities and to use new findings to not only maintain the safety of our nuclear power plants, but also to improve them” ENSIDirector General Marc Kenzelmann (web series “Ten Years on from Fukushima”)
The conference is organised by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). ENSI, represented by Director General Marc Kenzelmann, will participate in two discussion sessions on the first day of the conference. On one hand, the focus is on the effects of the Fukushima accident on legislation and the regulatory requirements for nuclear safety and civil protection. On the other hand, attention will be given to measures undertaken to protect nuclear installations from natural hazards since 2011. Two current examples from Switzerland: ENSI requested, by decree, new evidence for flood safety to be provided by the end of 2022. In summer 2022, ENSI redefined hazard assumptions for extreme weather events.
The disaster in Fukushima Daiichi of 11 March 2011 went down in history as the most serious nuclear reactor accident after Chernobyl. From the analysis of the accident and the circumstances, ENSI has been able to derive important conclusions both for its own regulatory activities and for the safety of Swiss nuclear installations. In 2021, ENSI published the “Ten Years on from Fukushima” web series, marking the tenth anniversary of the disaster.
Ten Years on from Fukushima
After the nuclear accident in Fukushima Daiichi, extrapolations revealed that about one-eighth of the amount of radioactivity that escaped at Chernobyl was released into the surrounding area.
The tests at the time confirmed that, in international comparison, Swiss nuclear power plants have a high safety level. Despite these learnings, it is important to remain attentive at all times, to keep the proofs of safety up to date, to live a strong safety culture and to systematically analyse events.
After the events in Fukushima Daiichi, ENSI ordered immediate actions and additional safety tests for the Swiss nuclear power plants. Moreover, from the accident analysis and the EU stress test, ENSI derived a need for action to improve nuclear safety in Switzerland: the “Fukushima Action Plan”.
After the accident at Fukushima, there was an increasing demand for international safety standards and their international monitoring. Switzerland, and in particular ENSI, was committed to mandatory backfitting on a global basis. Even if such safety principles are still not legally binding, the reactor accident acted as a booster for a new safety awareness amongst the international community.
The events in Japan are a reminder that we must never let down our guard. It is essential to ensure the safety of Swiss nuclear power plants right up until their final days of operation. Moreover, the accident in Japan shone a light on another important aspect: emergency preparedness.
Against the background of the lessons learnt from the major nuclear accident in Fukushima, the ENSI Board will continue to carry out its duties both vigilantly and independently, while ensuring the clear separation of ENSI’s regulatory safety function on the one hand from economic and political interests on the other.