WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report entitled “Nuclear Safety: Convention on Nuclear Safety is Viewed by Most Member Countries as Strengthening Safety Worldwide” requested by U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI).
The Convention on Nuclear Safety, negotiated in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, is a multilateral treaty that seeks to improve civilian nuclear power reactor safety worldwide. Countries are required to submit reports on the steps taken to implement the Convention and hold periodic meetings to review the reports.
GAO found the Convention plays an important role in strengthening nuclear safety worldwide and has broad support from its member countries. However, GAO does highlight some concerns. Compliance could be enhanced by greater public access to information about the Convention and by requiring performance metrics to be included in Convention reports. Additionally, the Convention provides no mechanism to sanction members for noncompliance or to shut down unsafe nuclear reactors.
“As more countries establish or expand civilian nuclear power capabilities, strong nuclear safety protections become increasingly important,” Senator Akaka said. “Countries should be encouraged to ratify the Convention because a nuclear accident in any country could have global consequences. I strongly urge the State Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to implement GAO’s recommendations so that the safety expertise of the participating countries is put to effective use.”
GAO also noted that Iran is not a member of the Convention. According to several Convention members, without Iran’s participation the international community has limited access and insight into the safety of Iran’s civilian nuclear power program.
GAO recommended that the Department of State, in coordination with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
- -Work with other Convention members to encourage the use of performance metrics in national reports to track progress on improving safety of civilian nuclear power plants; and
- -Encourage members to post their national reports and written answers to questions about their nuclear power programs on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) public website
The State Department generally agreed with these recommendations. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission generally agreed with the report but did not specifically address the recommendations.
Senator Akaka is the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The full GAO report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10489.pdf