Japan Becomes First Country To Sign CTBTO Tsunami Warning Agreement

By David Dalton
4 September 2008

4 Sept (NucNet): Japan has signed a tsunami warning agreement with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) – the first fully executed arrangement related to tsunami warning to be signed by the CTBTO.

The agreement means Japan is legally authorised to use CTBTO International Monitoring System (IMS) data to issue a tsunami warning. The CTBTO said it is confident the agreement “will help save many lives in the case of a tsunami”.

The agreement was signed at CTBTO headquarters in Vienna by Yukiya Amano, ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organisations in Vienna, and CTBTO executive secretary Tibor Toth.

The agreement allows the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Northwest Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre to access seismic and other data from the IMS. The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said this will help Japan “swiftly detect” earthquakes occurring outside the country and improve the accuracy of tsunami forecasts.

Mr Toth said the agreement is the first “legally consolidated arrangement” related to tsunami warning to be signed by the CTBTO. Bilateral arrangements also exist with Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, which have yet to be formalised. It is also hoped that a similar agreement with Thailand will soon be put in place.

He said the IMS sends “the speediest, most reliable and highest quality data” especially compared to information transmitted by other organisations. Within 30 seconds, around 90 percent of the information reaches the tsunami advisory centre in Japan. “The average speed for other systems is around 180 seconds,” Mr Toth said.

The massive earthquake that occurred off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on 26 December 2004, triggering the tsunami that killed over 240,000 people, was registered within minutes at seismic and hydro-acoustic monitoring stations belonging to the IMS. As part of its normal operations, the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna forwarded data from these stations to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) member states and the first bulletin listing the catastrophic event was distributed within two hours of the event being recorded.

The CTBTO said although the networks of many institutions registered the earthquake, no adequate warning could be issued by the relevant authorities to the populations at risk because of the lack of an integrated early warning system in the region. In response to this, the CTBTO decided in March 2005 to explore options for releasing IMS data to tsunami warning centres.

Because of the 2004 tsunami the IAEA has been re-examining the potential dangers of tsunamis to nuclear power plants. “There are scores of nuclear power plants operating in coastal areas and some of these may need to take a renewed look at this external hazard,” IAEA director of nuclear power Akira Omoto said at the time.

>>Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers)

India Issues Update On N-Plants (Briefs No. 3, 12 January 2005)

Japan Quake Review Will Influence Seismic Safety Worldwide, Says IAEA (News in Brief No. 21, 27 February 2008)

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