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Can Nuclear Power Be Safe?
      Author:James T. Areddy     Source: http://cn.wsj.com     Release Time:3/25/2011 9:06:55 AM     View Times:6421
Three years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a discredited nuclear power industry established an association designed for operators to help each other avoid missteps made in Ukraine. Now, following Japan's Fukushima Daiichi accident, the World Association of Nuclear Operators is facing the question that brought it into existence: Can nuclear power be safe?

'After the Fukushima accident, the simple answer 'yes' -- it is difficult to say,' says WANO's Paris-based chairman, Laurent Stricker, one of France's most senior nuclear power executives as a senior advisor to the chairman of Electricit?? de France. 'The level of safety has increased in the past 20 years but' a ' given Japan a ' 'not enough,' he said.

Governments around the world are drawing similar cautious conclusions: China suspended new approvals for plants pending safety improvements, India is revising operating rules and Germany has frozen expansion plans.

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal by telephone from Paris, Mr. Stricker said some countries have little alternative to pursuing nuclear power. 'I don't imagine a ' perhaps I'm wrong a ' to face the energy demand without nuclear,' Mr. Stricker said, specifically naming China, India and Russia. For some nations, '[t]here's no other adequate answer to energy demand,' he said. 'Some of them will continue to use nuclear, others will not.'

Transparency, he acknowledged, doesn't come naturally to the politically divisive nuclear power industry. But it may be a key to winning public support for the sector as it takes lessons from the Japanese incidents.

Mr. Stricker said a growing body of information flows privately between global operators through WANO, which organizes peer reviews, technical seminars and studies of the 1,100 or so abnormal 'events' reported by its 100-plus member companies annually. 'We don't have such difficulty inside WANO but the information we get from members is confidential,' he said.

'The Fukushima accident will have consequences, it's clear,' he said. 'I'm sure there will be new requirements for everyone to better understand the role of earthquakes and tsunami or floods.'

For now, WANO is telling its member companies to consider how a power blackout or loss of reactor cooling water would affect them. It advises a recheck of the robustness of emergency equipment and procedures. And it is sharing technicalities of the Fukushima Daiichi situation with members.

Developing countries are increasingly involved in the association, including three from China -- China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, China Power Investment Group and China National Nuclear Corp. a ' which, prior to Japan's accident, had been charged by Beijing with implementing the world's most ambitious rollout of nuclear power.

WANO's presidency, a mostly ceremonial position, is currently held by He Yu, chairman of Guangdong Nuclear. The association plans an October general meeting in Shenzhen.

'WANO is not an advocate of nuclear energy. We are an advocate of nuclear safety if you choose to use nuclear energy,' Mr. Stricker said. 'Our role is focused on the safety issue.'

In the aftermath of Fukushima, expect to hear that more often from the nuclear sector.

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