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[Herald Interview] OECD calls for regional nuclear safety approach

Despite persistent territorial and historical tension, Northeast Asia needs to formulate a joint scheme to promote nuclear safety which will help preclude future disasters and boost practical cooperation, chief of the OECD’s atomic energy agency said Tuesday.

William Magwood, director-general of the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD, stressed the growing need to jointly address safety issues in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima debacle in Japan, such as by cultivating a safety culture. 
William Magwood
William Magwood

The former U.S. nuclear regulatory commissioner was visiting Seoul to take part in the TRM+ on Nuclear Safety ― an expanded version of the previous top regulators meeting between Korea, Japan and China ― to broaden cooperation with other key players such as the U.S., Russia and related multilateral organizations. It was launched in September as part of the Park Geun-hye administration’s drive to foster trust among neighbors in nonpolitical areas.

“I do believe that there are aspects of nuclear safety and technology that can be addressed on a regional basis,” Magwood said at a news conference.

“In my view, nuclear safety transcends politics. … I believe that it’s quite practical to look for ways to cooperate on nuclear safety issues on a regional basis.”

Though little discussions have taken place on any possible framework, safety culture can be a good starting point given the cultural similarities among the three countries, he said.

“One of the outcomes of my consideration of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that there is a need to find approaches regarding safety culture, which has been discussed as a generic international concept for many years,” Magwood said.

“I believe that it’s time to find a concept so that a safety culture is developed for individual and national cultures.”

Tension persists, however, as Tokyo is at odds with Seoul and Beijing over islands in the East Sea and the East China Sea, respectively. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial war shrine and revisionist policies and remarks have enraged the other two countries and frozen relations.

China, for its part, has raised doubts about its peaceful rise in the wake of its norm-defying behaviors such as provocations in the East and South China Seas and the unilateral declaration of an air defense zone early this year.

Yet Magwood displayed confidence in Beijing as a partner of “productive, positive” discussions, unveiling a plan to visit the country next year. The Paris-based NEA signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese nuclear authorities in May.

“My belief is that we’ll find China a very good partner because I know that they care about nuclear safety and they are concerned about what they saw in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster,” he added.

“I think that nuclear safety is good basis of conversation and cooperation. Their interest coincides with those of Korea and Japan and other countries in the region.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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