The occasion was the 56th Regular Session of IAEA General Conference being held in Vienna, Austria.
Mr. Amano, a former career bureaucrat in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says "lessons learned from Fukushima" a number of times in the statement, but gives one concrete example only: backup power.
Other than that, the Fukushima nuclear accident is behind us, according to Mr. Amano, and everything is fine and dandy again in the world of nuclear energy. All we need to do is to make sure it is as safe as humanly possible.
From IAEA press release (9/17/2012), part about the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident (emphasis is mine):
Nuclear power remains the best known peaceful application of nuclear energy. When I became Director General three years ago, the talk was of a nuclear renaissance. Then the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, raising fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy throughout the world.
Eighteen months after the accident, it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries. Our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years.
Most of the new nuclear power reactors which are planned or under construction are in Asia. Established users such as China, India, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation plan significant expansions of their nuclear power programmes. Developing countries continue to show keen interest in nuclear power. Vietnam and Bangladesh are among those with advanced plans to build their first power reactors.
The most important lesson that we have learned from Fukushima Daiichi is that we need a much more intense focus on nuclear safety. But nuclear energy offers many benefits. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive. It also has important non-electric applications such as seawater desalination, district heating and heat for industrial processes. The Agency is committed to supporting the development of new and emerging applications in these areas.
In recent years, we have devoted more staff and resources to helping newcomer countries. The United Arab Emirates recently became the first country in 27 years to start building its first nuclear power plant. Our expert assistance enables newcomers to learn from the experience of existing nuclear power users. We have extensive tools to assist newcomers with energy planning and infrastructure development, and in crafting sound long-term nuclear energy strategies. We stress that the highest standards of safety must be the basis of all nuclear power programmes.
Turning to the question of assurance of supply of nuclear fuel, the world's first reserve of low enriched uranium (LEU) under the Agency's auspices was established in December 2010 in Angarsk, in the Russian Federation.
A separate arrangement, originally proposed by the United Kingdom, for the assurance of supply of enrichment services and LEU, is also in place. Our work to establish an IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan continues to make progress.
The safe management and disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel remain key issues. The Agency works closely with Member States in this area. The nuclear industry has been managing interim waste disposal successfully for more than half a century. But no long-term disposal facility has so far become operational for nuclear spent fuel. This is often due to difficulties involving public acceptance.
Nevertheless, good progress has been made in a number of countries, including Finland, Sweden and France. Last month, I had an opportunity to visit the ONKALO facility in Finland, where a repository for the final disposal of spent fuel is being built deep underground. It is an impressive site. We expect the first deep geological repositories for nuclear spent fuel to become operational after 2020. The progress that is being made in this area deserves to be better known.
The International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century in St Petersburg, Russia, next June, will provide a valuable opportunity to consider nuclear power's long-term contribution to sustainable development.
At the last General Conference, the Fukushima Daiichi accident was uppermost in all our minds. The Agency provided practical assistance to Japan and shared information, openly and transparently, with governments and the public.
We are now well into the post-accident phase. The focus is on implementing the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety which the last General Conference endorsed. Progress has been made in many areas. Let me highlight one example. One of the key problems at Fukushima Daiichi was the loss of all electrical power as backup generators were disabled by the tsunami. After the accident, securing alternative reliable electricity supply during a prolonged blackout was recognized as an area requiring swift action by plant operators around the world.
We have expanded the content of IAEA expert peer review services to Member States to include the first lessons learned from the accident. Peer reviews involve assessments of plant safety, regulatory effectiveness or emergency preparedness and response. Possible safety weak points at nuclear power plants have been identified and are being addressed.
We undertook a systematic review of IAEA Safety Standards, taking into account lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. We took a self-critical look at our own response to the accident and identified areas where we could have done better, including in communication. We launched a series of international expert meetings focussing on different technical issues. And we have continued to support our Member States in their efforts to enhance the international nuclear safety legal framework.
In December, the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, organized by the Government of Japan and the IAEA, will take place in Fukushima Prefecture. At this Conference, we will present a report outlining the conclusions of the international expert meetings held so far. We will also prepare a comprehensive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, to be finalized in 2014.
Nuclear safety remains the primary responsibility of individual countries. However, governments have recognized that effective international cooperation is vitally important and that the IAEA has a unique role to play in this regard. It is essential that the Nuclear Safety Action Plan is implemented in full. We must never become complacent. The ultimate goal is to make nuclear power as safe as humanly possible everywhere and to restore public confidence.
As safe as humanly possible. How is he going to achieve that? Probably by creating more detailed manuals and procedures to follow. TEPCO and NISA did have extensive manuals and procedures, but that didn't help either of them in dealing with the accident unfolding in front of them in a way that had never been described in the manuals and anticipated in the procedures.
From reading what Asahi Shinbun had to report from the transcript of 50 hours worth of the teleconference video in the early days of the accident in March last year, I am beginning to form my own conclusion that all could have been prevented if they, particularly TEPCO, dared not follow the manuals and procedures, rules and regulations. (More later, maybe.)
No amount of IAEA's new and improved procedures will make nuclear power as safe as humanly possible. It will only make a very convenient excuse for the officials and operators of nuclear plants when an accident does happen. "See, we meticulously followed the procedures. We did nothing wrong. It's all beyond our expectation."