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10 May 2010 - NPT - Main Committee III - Statement by Ms Florence Mangin, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

(Unofficial translation)

Mr. Chairman,

The French Delegation first of all wishes to express its support for the statement made on behalf of the European Union by the Spanish presidency.

Mr. Chairman,

It’s a fact: civil nuclear energy is prompting increasing interest around the world. A growing number of States would like to implement this energy source in their own countries or to develop their own nuclear power capacity. Let me remind you of a few figures: the construction of 11 nuclear reactors began in 2009, the highest level for 20 years, 55 reactors are currently under construction throughout the world, and 430 reactors should be built by 2030

There are many reasons for this revival of nuclear energy. While the cost of fossil resources is growing inexorably, global warming is threatening our planet and energy security is becoming a major concern for many countries, nuclear energy is regaining its appeal. We will need 40% more energy by 2030. Renewable energy sources alone do not appear to be sufficient to meet the increasing demand for energy throughout the world, particularly in the emerging countries.

Given these global challenges, nuclear energy may represent an opportunity: for the development of countries with strong demographic growth, to develop the resources of countries rich in uranium, to diversify our energy sources with a view towards energy independence, to contribute towards meeting basic human needs and achieving sustainable development, in the areas of health and nutrition, industry, agriculture, access to water and power, and protection of the environment.

An increasing number of countries would like to seize this opportunity. These demands are pressing and legitimate. The international community must respond to them, and at the same time remove the associated proliferation risks, in particular those surrounding the fuel cycle. The review conference must address this key issue; France hopes that an agreement can be reached on the overarching principles governing the sustainable development of civil nuclear energy.

Mr. Chairman,

As President Sarkozy underlined on March 8, 2010 "France’s vision is of a world that should not be divided into countries with nuclear technology, jealously guarding their privileges, and nations demanding a right to nuclear know-how that others would like to deny them. France believes that civil nuclear energy can be the cement of a new international solidarity, where each country will need the others to advance."

The NPT, vector of a shared project for peace, mutual development and shared prosperity, is the cornerstone of this nuclear solidarity. All the Member States Parties to the NPT have made a commitment, under Article IV of the Treaty, to facilitate the use of nuclear power for peaceful uses.

For its part, France pledges, as it has for some time, to put its full weight behind the clauses of Article IV of the Treaty.

At a time when an increasing number of countries would like to develop peaceful uses of nuclear power, France, in accordance with its commitments made under Article IV, is ready to meet these expectations by making its recognized expertise and experience available to help any country which rigorously complies with its nuclear non-proliferation commitments, in particular those commitments set forth in the NPT, and which pursues nuclear activities for peaceful purposes in good faith.

My country has chosen to make extensive use of nuclear power in order to produce its electricity; it has pursued a responsible energy policy for more than 30 years now, and today operates more than 58 reactors, which produce 80% of its electricity. France has considerable expertise in managing the entire nuclear fuel cycle and has developed major facilities to deal with radioactive waste. This early experience gives us no special privileges, but it does mean that we have the responsibility to share our experience in this sphere within a rigorous, transparent and multilateral framework, in accordance with the most demanding international standards in terms of safety, security, non-proliferation and environmental protection for future generations.

It is in this spirit that France organized in Paris, on March 8 and 9, in cooperation with the IAEA and with the support of the OECD, an international conference on access to civil nuclear power, bringing together 63 States interested in nuclear power, directors of the international organizations concerned, the main companies operating in the sector, and various experts.

Organized on the initiative of President Sarkozy, this conference provided an opportunity to share experience and expertise. It provided an opportunity for in-depth and meaningful dialogue on the challenges of developing civil nuclear energy.

There are many challenges: proliferation risks, safety and security of the installations, preventing the trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material for terrorist or criminal purposes, responding to training requirements, supply security, management of spent fuel, financing the development of nuclear energy, environmental challenges and transparency with regard to the general public.

Given these global challenges, we cannot just propose national solutions or solutions limited to a small group of countries. As President Sarkozy stated during the Paris Conference, now is the time to work together to fashion a new nuclear governance. Based on shared principles, and in collaboration with a strengthened IAEA, this governance would create the conditions for the responsible development of nuclear energy.

The human, economic and environmental challenges of this major issue mean that we must demonstrate a sense of responsibility and mutual trust. By obeying certain imperatives we shall effectively combat attempts to divert civil technology to military use, and guarantee our security and that of future generations.

First imperative: ensure that the development of civil nuclear energy will never help a proliferating country. This fundamental imperative is central to the NPT. Although the Treaty recognizes in Article IV the inalienable right of States to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, that right is not unconditional. In accordance with the Treaty, the exercise of this right is conditional upon a peaceful purpose, a commitment to non-proliferation and satisfactory implementation of IAEA safeguards.

Complying with ones commitments does not mean giving up ones "inalienable" rights, but exercising them in a responsible manner, in a world where the energy issue can only be addressed through joint efforts, and with a view towards sustainable development. Complying with ones commitments actually means preserving the inalienable rights of other countries and ensuring the security of everyone. In order to avoid risks that could affect everyone, nuclear energy must be developed in an atmosphere of trust, by implementing the highest standards with respect to security, safety, non- proliferation and environmental protection.

Any State that fails to meet its obligations with regard to non-proliferation and the implementation of IAEA safeguards, or for whom the peaceful purpose of its nuclear activities cannot be verified, should not be entitled to benefit from the provisions of Article IV. A country cannot, on the one hand, demand civil nuclear cooperation, with the long-term partnership and responsibility that this implies, and on the other hand, renege on its international obligations.

As President Sarkozy stated, France will be very staunched when it comes to defending every country’s right to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; we have signed 9 cooperation agreements since 2008. But France will be just as very staunched in her opposition to those countries that violate collective security standards. In order to preserve the rights of the vast majority of States, the entire international community must respond assertively to those who fail to abide by rules that apply to everyone.

In order to develop solid bilateral cooperation, France encourages its partners to complement their comprehensive safeguards agreements with an additional protocol and to adhere to all of the international agreements in the field of nuclear energy. The credibility and effectiveness of IAEA’s safeguards system are essential with respect to ensuring the responsible development of civil nuclear energy. We propose suspending any nuclear cooperation with the countries that do not respect their international obligations.

Second imperative: training. The development of the nuclear energy sector must involve a long-term commitment to the development of human resources, because we need to train generations of technicians and engineers to run power plants, of course, but also to master all the scientific, technical, industrial and economic aspects of a nuclear power program.

This is a priority for France. French nuclear training courses are available internationally; an international Master’s degree in "Nuclear Energy" is open to students from all over the world. It has been designed with a single point of entry for students from other countries in order to make the requirements for this French offering easy to understand for all applicants. But France wants to go even further. It is going to create an International Institute of Nuclear Energy and within it an International School of Nuclear Energy which will be host to the best teachers and researchers, and offer very high quality training. This institute will be part of an international network of specialized centers of excellence, currently being set up. The first of these centers will be in Jordan. At the same time, the number of grants available for foreign students wishing to follow courses in nuclear technology will be increased.

Access to nuclear energy requires a strong financial commitment because investment, operating under the best conditions for a period of several decades, and the dismantling of the facilities should be taken into account. Funding nuclear power programs is then another major challenge. We urge the international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the EBRD and the various regional development banks, to become involved in creating sources of finance suited to non-greenhouse gas energy sources and the development of civil nuclear power to the highest standards. To achieve that, nuclear power needs to be recognized as a completely non-carbon energy source.

Our collective security depends on maintaining the highest level of nuclear safety. Safety is not simply a national issue, it is a collective concern. It stands in the way of public acceptance of nuclear power on a global scale. That is why France supports, and is actively participating in, the creation of a European Institute of Safety Training, which would form the basis of an international network of nuclear safety experts. My country would like to see the development, under the auspices of the IAEA, of independent evaluations of the safety of nuclear power plants, which would ensure that safety considerations would be more effectively taken into account in the development of nuclear power programs; this would make it possible to help countries that use nuclear power, and ensure that safety criteria would be one of the first aspects to be considered within the framework of the development of a civil nuclear power program.

Another challenge relates to the access to nuclear fuel. Given the level of investment and duration of these projects, some people are concerned about the risks related to interruptions of supply. The question of access to nuclear fuel must therefore be subject to a collective commitment in order to implement supply assurances, under the auspices of the IAEA, so that nuclear energy can continue to be an energy source available to all in the long term. To this end, France supports the establishment of a fuel bank of low enriched uranium under the auspices of the IAEA. Financing for this was established when the EU, under French presidency, agreed to provide €25 million to finance this project.

While France rejects any measures that forbid new countries from accessing technologies linked to the fuel cycle, it does recognize that the uncontrolled dissemination of these technologies represents a major risk in terms of proliferation. While awaiting a decision from the nuclear suppliers group, its policy will remain in line with the commitments made at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila.

Sixth condition for the responsible development of nuclear power: the development and adoption of responsible long-term solutions for managing spent fuel and final waste. France has chosen to adopt a closed cycle which recycles spent nuclear fuel and ensures the maximum recovery rate for uranium and minimizes the volume of final waste to be stored. My country will continue to cooperate with many countries by putting its processing and recycling facilities at their disposal.

Finally, France is convinced that there can be no civil nuclear development without a commitment to promote constant and transparent dialogue with the general public. Secrecy promotes concern.

These are the issues that we think are essential for a successful revival of nuclear energy. We therefore hope that the Conference will address them in an in-depth and concrete manner since the States have a crucial role to play in supporting this development. France has made some proposals with this in mind: we will shortly submit, together with several other partners concerned, a working document aimed at reaffirming the main principles governing the sustainable and responsible development of civil nuclear energy.

Mr. Chairman,

The atom also plays an important role outside the realms of energy. The IAEA and its Member States conduct many projects aimed at applying nuclear technology to areas as essential as health, nutrition, agriculture, food security, and the management of natural resources, particularly that of water. These projects are particularly important in developing or emerging countries which are faced with serious problems of nutrition, notably infant nutrition, and a steep rise in the number of cases of cancer. My country pays tribute to the new director general of IAEA, Mr. Amano, for the priority he has given to these actions, starting with the fight against cancer.

Mr. Chairman,

My country came to this Conference with a simple message. We do not have to choose between the development of civil nuclear energy and strengthening the non-proliferation regime. We do not have to choose between respecting inalienable rights and responsible behavior toward the general public, our neighbors and future generations. Civil nuclear energy provides us with a major source of energy which will enable the international community to provide answers to the enormous economic, human and environmental challenges that we face. Let’s share it in the best way possible, let’s use it in the best way possible, for environmental purposes, for peaceful purposes, to support development, peace, and collective security. Let’s allow this review conference to provide us with the opportunity to make concrete progress towards this new nuclear governance - a joint, shared governance - that we are striving to achieve.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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