Japan’s atomic crisis heightens need for governance review of nuclear industry

News Release

March 15, 2011

Waterloo, Canada – March 15 – Damage to Japanese nuclear plants following a devastating earthquake has heightened the urgency for increased safety and governance reviews of the worldwide nuclear industry, says Dr. Trevor Findlay, Senior Fellow at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

Concern and anxiety is continuing to mount over dangerous levels of radiation being released around Japan’s north-eastern coast, which is drawing attention to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC), which was established in 2008 as a response to the increased magnitudes observed in severe earthquakes, particularly in Japan.

Dr. Findlay is leading a two-year project, a joint effort by CIGI and the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance (CCTC), that is conducting a “root-and-branch” study of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine its origins, past performance and current strengths and weaknesses, both from an organizational and management perspective, as well as from the perspective of the entirety of its mandate.

“The recent events in Japan are highlighting the importance of the ISSC, and its objectives to assist countries with assessing seismic hazards as well as reevaluate the integrity of existing nuclear installations,” noted Dr. Findlay.  “Nuclear safety needs to be a permanent work in progress, and complacency and regression avoided, if we are to avert catastrophic accidents. The situation in Japan shows us that even advanced nuclear countries cannot take nuclear safety for granted.”

In addition, Dr. Findlay says, “the safety and security of people around the world will be at risk if the governance of nuclear energy is less than optimal.  Given the current threat of nuclear disaster in Japan, an independent external review of the IAEA is more urgently needed than ever to ensure proper governance.” 

The call is also coming at a time when it is being reported that Germany is taking nuclear plants offline in order to be closely reviewed, and several countries considering new or revived nuclear energy programs are in seismically active zones, such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Italy.

The IAEA is the paramount instrument of global governance in the nuclear realm in all three areas of governance concern: nuclear safety, nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation. Yet, since the agency was established in 1956, there has never been an independent, outside review of its performance.

The Strengthening and Reform of the International Atomic Energy Agency Project aims to release its findings and recommendations in a report to be published in late 2011.

Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit www.cigionline.org.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.