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Nuclear inspector outlines Fukushima report plans

Chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman has confirmed he will not be examining UK nuclear or energy policy issues as part of a report into the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant for the government.

Minister for energy Chris Huhne requested Mr Weightman produce the report on the implications for the UK nuclear industry as the implications from the Japanese earthquake disaster came to light.

Engineers have been struggling to bring the Fukushima plant under control since it was hit by the earthquake and tsunami which devastated north east Japan more than two weeks ago.

Mr Weightman has confirmed the broad area he will be examining as part of his report to the government but stressed he will not be discussing nuclear or energy policy issues as these are “outside the role and responsibilities of the nuclear regulator”.

Among the themes the report will cover are:

  • General background on nuclear power technology and the approach to nuclear safety and security regulation in the UK, internationally and in Japan.
  • The events at the Fukushima site, including timeline and impact and actions taken to protect people.
  • Key on-site factors, including operator actions, contributing to the events.
  • Lessons for the UK.
  • A comparison of UK nuclear power station designs with those at Fukushima.

The final report, which is due to be delivered in September, after an interim report in May, will also examine natural hazards and other potential threats to UK nuclear facilities and any recommendations regarding the lessons learnt for the UK.

In a statement, Mr Weightman said: “It is not possible to define the final scope of the report at this stage. The events in Japan are not yet clear and relevant issues may emerge over the coming days or weeks that Mike Weightman would need to take into account in the final report. 

“It is also possible that, once defined, the scope of the full report will need to be refined as further information becomes available. Given the timing, and the fact that there is likely to be only limited information available, the scope for the interim report will necessarily be less comprehensive than the final report.”

The interim report will focus on any immediate lessons to be learned for the UK from findings until April.

Mr Weightman is setting up an independent expert technical advisory panel to assist in the report and has called for submissions from all those with technical information about the accident or thoughts about any lessons from it that can be learnt to enhance nuclear safety in the UK.

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