Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, released this photo May 19 showing the tsunami approaching its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor.

Green Light from Chief UK Inspector for Nuclear Plants

Mike Weightman's interim report for the British government said there's no need to curtail operations at the country's nuclear power plants in light of the Japanese crisis.

UK Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations Mike Weightman filed his interim report May 18, telling the British government there is no need to curtail operations at the country’s nuclear power plants in light of the Japanese crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. He did list 25 recommended areas for review to improve safety of the British industry, however, including reviews of emergency response plans, how the plants would handle a prolonged loss of power -– many UK plants are scheduled to be decommissioned within the next decade, so the question may be moot -– and the risks of flooding.

"The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima -- the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami - are not credible in the UK," said Weightman, who heads the Office for Nuclear Regulation under the Health and Safety Executive. "We are 1,000 miles from the nearest fault line, and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards. Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different to the type at the Fukushima plant.

"But we are not complacent. No matter what the differences are, and how high the standard of design and subsequent operation of the nuclear facilities here in the UK, the quest for improvement must never stop. Seeking to learn from events, and from new knowledge, both nationally and internationally, must continue to be a fundamental feature of the safety culture of the UK nuclear industry.

"The Japanese people are still dealing with the aftermath of this terrible event. The full facts are not clear. I depart for Japan next week to lead a fact-finding mission on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency, with support from nuclear experts from across the world. This will help inform my final and more comprehensive 'lessons learned' report, which I will publish in September."

The interim "Japanese earthquake and tsunami: Implications for the UK Nuclear Industry" report was requested by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off the northeastern coast of Japan.

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