Japan, China and South Korea’s nuclear energy authorities agreed on Nov. 29 to establish an early notification system to share information on accidents at nuclear power plants.
The new system will be aimed at addressing criticism leveled in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that Japan failed to keep other nations adequately informed.
Officials from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and their counterparts in China and South Korea have yet to decide what particular issues will be covered by the early warning system and how information will be transmitted.
The three nations already submit reports of accidents at nuclear power plants to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While those reports can be obtained by other states through the IAEA, it can take about a month to get some information.
Diplomatic channels also proved inadequate for transmitting information during the crisis, increasing calls for a formal system with clear rules.
A particular concern of the Chinese authorities following the Fukushima disaster was Japan’s slowness in informing neighboring nations of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s release of water contaminated with radiation into the sea after the nuclear accident.
According to officials at Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, South Korea had 20 nuclear reactors and China had 11 as of 2010. Japan, South Korea and China account for about 77 percent of the nuclear plants in Asia. China is currently constructing a number of new reactors.
Japan has reported between 10 to 20 accidents and problems to the IAEA every year, including incidents with the lowest rating of 0 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which are seen as carrying no safety significance. Japanese officials said the new early notification system would likely carry all such events.
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