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A message from WANO Chairman Laurent Stricker

24/03/2011

Two weeks ago, Japan experienced nature's destructive forces in an unimaginable and unprecedented way. The world has witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of the offshore earthquake and resulting tsunami, which has left parts of Japan's landscape unrecognisable.  Our thoughts and deepest sympathy remain with the people of Japan as they continue with humanitarian and disaster-recovery efforts.

It has been a stressful and emotional time for everyone in the nuclear industry. Emergency efforts are continuing at Fukushima Daiichi, and the situation is constantly changing. Latest reports indicate onsite water spray efforts are cooling Fukushima's affected reactors. While this is promising news and points to the situation stabilising, there is still a long road ahead for Japanese authorities and site operator, Tepco. There is no downplaying the significance of this event: everyone in the industry is acutely aware there will be consequences and lessons from Fukushima. However, with response efforts still underway, it is still too soon to fully understand and analyse the sequence of events.

Much has been said comparing the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 with the current situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex. While the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is now, sadly, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the differences between the two events outweigh any similarities. I would like to emphasise the key differences.

Reactor technology/design and accident cause:

Design flaws in Chernobyl's reactors (including the absence of a reactor containment vessel) and a weak operational safety culture were at the root of the accident. At Fukushima, we know a tsunami of historic proportions exceeded the reactors' design specifications and triggered the subsequent chain of events.

Communication flow:

Ukraine's Chernobyl operated in an era of isolation unseen today. Within the industry, operators around the world regularly share safety experiences and learning. Our industry has been doing so ever since Chernobyl. In fact, WANO was established in 1989 for this very reason; to link nuclear power operators from around the world in international cooperation. WANO is a not-for-profit, voluntary member association uniting every company and country in the world with an operating commercial nuclear power plant to achieve the highest possible standards in nuclear safety. Industry information exchange and peer support will continue into the future. If anything, communication and information exchange amongst our members will only strengthen.

Our members have galvanised in support of Japan, offering access to technical assistance and equipment as required. Such international offers of technical support are being managed at a government level.

As a member association, WANO has limited capacity to provide public information updates. However, there are several sources listed on our resources page, which may assist.

I would like to commend WANO's Tokyo Centre personnel, all of whom are safe and have shown tremendous professional commitment and dedication during this difficult time.