U.N. mulls excluding nuclear accidents from disaster prevention plan

The United Nations is considering excluding measures to prevent a nuclear accident caused by earthquake and tsunami from a new framework on disaster risk reduction expected to be adopted at the next world conference in 2015, U.N. sources said Tuesday.

A Japanese government official involved in drafting the new framework, which will be discussed at the U.N.-sponsored World Conference on Disaster Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai, northeastern Japan, said manmade disasters should be treated separately from natural calamities.

But a member of nongovernmental organization criticized such a move, saying the world body is avoiding the issue of nuclear disasters out of concern that antinuclear activists could exploit the discussion.

The international conference to be held in the Japanese city devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis, will focus on the new action plan, which will replace the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015.

The 10-year action plan aimed at making the world safer from natural hazards offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience. It was agreed upon at the previous world conference in 2005 in Kobe, a western Japan port city hit by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995.

Drafting of the new framework for action began in March 2012, with the Geneva-based U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which serves as the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and the Japanese government playing a central role.

In Geneva, a three-day biennial meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which brings together stakeholders including governments, NGOs, international organizations and the private sector, started Tuesday to talk about the new action plan.

A senior NGO official said that unless steps to counter nuclear accidents are discussed during the Geneva meeting, the Sendai conference will also avoid addressing such disasters.

Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the U.N. secretary general for disaster risk reduction, has stressed the importance of responding to nuclear accidents. The chair's statement issued after the previous Global Platform meeting in 2011 also called for international cooperation to ensure nuclear safety.

In 2015, Japan will be hosting the U.N. disaster conference for the third time in a row. The first was held in Yokohama in 1994 and the second in Kobe in 2005.