Thursday, March 3, 2016

2016 NEA Report on Fukushima Lessons Learned

Five years after the Fukushima disaster, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has released an updated report* on Fukushima lessons learned.  It summarizes NEA and member country safety improvements and corrective actions, including “efforts to understand and characterise the importance of strong nuclear safety cultures . . .” (p. 3)

Keep in mind that countries (not plant operators) comprise the NEA so safety culture (SC) discussion centers on government, i.e., regulatory, activities.  Selected SC-related excerpts from the report follow:

“Several NEA member countries have adopted a broad consideration of safety culture characteristics, including human and organisational factors, which include specific safety culture programmes that focus on attitudes towards safety, organisational capability, decision-making processes [including during emergencies] and the commitment to learn from experience.” (p. 11)

“Some [countries] have adopted a systematic consideration of safety culture characteristics in inspection and oversight processes. . . . These include periodic internal and external safety culture assessments.” (p. 29)

Desirable SC characteristics for a regulator (as opposed to a licensee) are discussed on pp. 40-42.  That may seem substantial but it’s all pulled from a different 2016 NEA publication, “The Safety Culture of an Effective Nuclear Regulatory Body,” which we reviewed on Feb. 10, 2016.  That publication had one point worth repeating here, viz., the regulator, in its efforts to promote and ensure safety, should think holistically about the overall regulator-licensee- socio-technical-legal-political system in terms of causes and effects, feedback loops and overall system performance. 

Our Perspective

This report may be a decent high-level summary of activities undertaken around the world but it is not sufficiently detailed to provide guidance and it certainly contains no original analysis.  The report does include a respectable list of Fukushima-related references.

Many of the actions, initiatives and activities described in the report are cited multiple times, creating the impression of more content than actually exists.  For example, the quote above from p. 11 is repeated, in whole or in part, in at least four other places.

If the NEA were a person, we’d characterize it as an “empty suit.”  While the summaries of and excerpts from the references, meetings, etc. are satisfactory, the NEA-authored top-level observations are often pro-nuclear cheerleading or just plain blather, e.g., “NEA member countries have continued to take appropriate actions to maintain and enhance the level of safety at their nuclear facilities, and thus nuclear power plants are safer now because of actions taken since the accident.  Ensuring safety is a continual process, . . .” (p. 11)**

*  Nuclear Energy Agency, “Five Years after the Fukushima Daiichi Accident: Nuclear Safety Improvements and Lessons Learnt,” NEA No. 7284 (2016).  The NEA is an arm of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  This report builds on a 2013 report, “The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident: OECD/NEA Nuclear Safety Response and Lessons Learnt.”

**  As a catty aside, the reputation of the NEA’s relatively new Director-General doesn’t exactly contribute to the agency’s respectability, his having been called “a treacherous, miserable liar,” “first-class rat” and “a tool of the nuclear industry” by an influential U.S. Senator during a 2012 Huffington Post interview.  At that time, the Director-General was a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner.


  1. Scientific American says that Fukushima costs are at $100 billion. What does this include?

    Who else has published what they think the real costs are?
    Do these costs include the cost of upgrading most of the world’s nuclear power stations?

  2. The Fukushima Investigation is Far From Over

    We still do not have a chronological list of the missed opportunities and the harmfully dysfunctional conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions together with their impacts on the harmful results.

    What individuals and organizations advised TEPCO to address the safety shortcomings that resulted in the explosions and meltdowns?

    What individuals and organizations had obvious opportunities to have advised TEPCO to address the safety shortcomings that resulted in the explosions and meltdowns, but did not?

    After the tsunami what opportunities were there to have prevented the explosions and meltdowns?

    There is a group compiling the unanswered questions.

    You may join by sending an email to


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