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Nuclear power can endure Fukushima 'bump in the road'

20 May 2011

A former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Hans Blix, said Wednesday he believed the development of nuclear power would continue despite Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, which he described as a "bump in the road" for the industry.
"If you ask governments who are the ones who are going to decide eventually, I have no doubt that the majority of the world will continue to use nuclear," said Blix, a former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who also led the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003.

The Fukushima accident, brought on by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, has sparked a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with widely differing opinions.

The German government for instance decided last month to impose a three-month moratorium on extending the lifespans of the nation's nuclear reactors, while an official British report recommended Wednesday that the country stick to its plan to build a new series of nuclear reactors.

"Fukushima is a bump in the road and will also lead to a further strengthening of the safety of nuclear power," Blix, a Swede, told AFP Wednesday on the sidelines of a global sustainability conference in Stockholm.

"There were changes after Three Mile Island," he pointed out, referring to a nuclear plant accident in the US state of Pennsylvania 1979.

"There were further things happening after Chernobyl, and there will be further changes after Fukushima, and nuclear will be better and safer in the future," insisted Blix, a lawyer and former Swedish foreign minister who led the IAEA for 16 years until he was replaced at the helm by Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei in 1997.

"You have lots of development in the fourth generation of nuclear power plants that do not need any active cooling," he pointed out, insisting that "like in other areas, you are going to have development and technology is going to improve."