Thursday, 27 April 2000

Mr Hubert de La Fortelle (French Representative to the Conference on Desarmament)

Mr. Chairman,

I should first like to congratulate you most warmly on your election of this committee. You can rely on the fullest support from the french delegation in the exercise of your important duties. It will spare no effort in ensuring the success of the work of this committee under your authority.

Mr. Chairman,

Being deeply attached to the development of peaceful nuclear energy applications in many economic sectors such as power generation, medicine and agriculture, France takes a special interest in the debate on those applications. As early as 1974, France chose nuclear energy as one of the basic elements of its energy self-sufficiency policy. To date, more than 75% of France's electric power is generated by fifty-eight nuclear reactors. While feeling the necessity to set the stage for an actual diversification of resources, particularly through the use of renewable energies, our Government has reaffirmed the choice of nuclear energy as the mainstay of the nation's electricity supply.

Nuclear energy can, and must, contribute to economic progress and we feel that the cause of sustainable, environment-and climate friendly development will be served by the dissemination of peaceful application technologies to those States which will be willing to make the appropriate commitments.

To that end, France is cooperating with a growing number uses of countries and institutions. France feels, however, that the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, especially power generation, and the related international cooperation and exchanges, will not develop unless a climate of confidence is established among the players in the nuclear field and decision-makers at government level, the economic players and the public. For such a climate to prevail, activities related to nuclear energy must meet three requirements: non-proliferation and security, safety and transparency. Far from being impediments, these conditions facilitate exchanges and make it possible for the provisions of Article IV of the NPT to apply in full.

Mr. Chairman:

I would like to begin by mentioning the efforts made by France in the past five years to promote the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, attesting to our commitment to the full implementation of Article IV of NPT, consistent with the principles and objectives of the 1995 decision No. 2.

The French commitment is affirmed at international and national levels as well as through actions taken within the framework of the European Union.

First of all, France supports the IAEA. It is essential for the Agency to have the financial and human resources to carry out its appointed missions in relation with Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) implementation, in the areas of technical cooperation, nuclear material verification and security, or nuclear safety. These activities must be supported in a balanced way.

Within the IAEA, France is actively involved in technical cooperation actions. It contributes to the Agency's regular budget and to the cooperation fund for an amount of 6.39% and we urge that all States keep their contributions at their present level, or increase their voluntary contributions. As our commitments to regular budget and fund contributions have always been met, our 1998 contribution was 4.5 million dollars, making France the third largest contributor to the fund.

French expertise regularly contributes to cooperation programs. Thus, in the past four years, French experts participated in about 180 technical cooperation missions within the IAEA framework. In addition, France supports individual programs in conjunction with the Vienna Agency, while being involved in the teaching of nuclear technology through the organization of training sessions. Since 1995, over 1350 internships have been granted in France, for training in peaceful applications of nuclear energy, for the benefit of scientists or experts from more than 80 nations outside the E.U.

Last, many bilateral agreements have been concluded in the area of peaceful nuclear energy applications, including 130 state-to-state agreements with non-nuclear-weapon states. Since 1995, 20 new agreements have come into force and 10 more are being negotiated.

Time does not permit me to give a detailed account of all these actions. However, more information will be found in the brochure which the French delegation will be pleased to provide.

Mr. Chairman:

France is of the opinion that the future development of nuclear energy for peaceful applications is subject to the following three mandatory conditions: 1) non-proliferation and security, 2) safety, 3) transparency.

1)The first requirement to be met for peaceful applications of nuclear energy is compliance with the non-proliferation and security commitments covering nuclear materials and installations. Abiding by this provision is vital to the struggle against proliferation and illicit trade in nuclear and radioactive material. The development of international cooperation for peaceful applications of nuclear energy, which implies unrestricted exchanges of equipment, materials and scientific/technological information, can only be accepted by the international community if that community is assured that such exchanges will not result in diversions for illicit purposes. Hence the necessity for effective, objective and transparent export controls; also needed is an active support of the IAEA's safeguards system, and the States' adhesion to those policies.

Export control rules, vigilant and strict as they must be, should not conflict with other Treaty obligations. Although maintaining strict controls over nuclear exports is a mandatory condition for the development of nuclear trade, it is not an end in itself. This is a constant concern which guides our action within the Suppliers' Group, which we view as an indispensable instrument for promoting a realistic, objective and balanced approach to export controls. Such controls should not impede the export trade or detract from the safety imperative. Due to preside over the Suppliers' Group for one year from next June, France wishes to contribute to the expansion of communication between the supplier States and those States which are potential beneficiaries of nuclear trade. France also wishes to promote transparency, in continuation of the efforts made since 1995. In this respect, may we express our satisfaction at the success of the two international seminars on export controls, held in Vienna in 1997 and in New York in 1999, as well as at the impending creation of an information site on the Internet. We would also like to praise the Zangger Committee's role in the implementation of Articles III-2 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a role which was strengthened by China's adhesion in 1997.

As to the safeguards, I need say no more, having had the opportunity to speak on the subject in the previous debate. I would simply like to add that, with a growing number of countries adopting additional protocols to their safeguards agreements, implementing the IAEA safeguards strengthening program, nuclear cooperation will become more confident and therefore more fruitful. Like the United Kingdom, the thirteen non-nuclear weapon States of the European Union and Euratom, France signed an IAEA additional protocol with the IAEA in September 1998 and should ratify it at an early date.

Just as essential are the prevention and suppression of illicit trafficking and material diversions for proliferation or criminal purposes, which create an unacceptable risk for the international community. That is why we feel that the States must unite against this threat by improving exchanges of information between national authorities and cooperating to strengthen national accountability and material protection systems. In this respect, having organized an international conference on the theme of illicit trafficking with the IAEA in 1998, France urges that all States sign the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material, an instrument which has proved its worth in an area where States are highly sensitive. It is precisely that sensitivity which incites France to extreme caution with regard to a possible revision of the convention covering in particular extension of its scope. France is of the opinion that revising the convention on physical protection would be risky and should be attempted only with extreme prudence, based on a thorough appraisal of needs and consequences. To be fully effective, the measures taken for physical protection must remain confidential. The measures and the strategy to be implemented are specific to the issue; they are, and should remain, the responsibility of each individual State. On the other hand, having played a very active part in the revision of IAEA's recommendations on the physical protection of nuclear materials and plants, as compiled in document INFCIRC 225/Rev. 4, France hopes that they are adopted by all States at the earliest possible time.

2) Safety, the second imperative, is obviously one of the major issues arising from the use of nuclear energy. Safety should be a permanent concern, and improve at all stages, namely in nuclear reactors, the back end of the fuel cycle, the management of high-activity and long-life waste, nuclear material transport and long-term waste management.

Consistent with the G8 declaration at the Moscow summit in April 1996, which urged the States to improve international cooperation and facilitate the coming into force of the major international legal instruments covering nuclear plant safety, civil liability, waste management and materials security, France has continued working actively in that area, either directly or within the frameworks of the E.U. or IAEA, specifically by entering cooperation agreements on safety issues and participating in the drafting and implementation of the main international conventions covering those issues.

As regards nuclear plant safety in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the CIS, France contributes to the upgrading of nuclear power plant safety either directly or through the E.U.'s "PHARE" and "TACIS" programs.

France urges all the States, which have not yet done so, to ratify the Convention on nuclear safety and the Joint Convention on safety of spent fuel management and on safety of radioactive waste management. A party to the Convention on nuclear safety, which became effective in 1996, France has participated in its first review meeting in 1999. France has also completed its internal approval process in relation with the Joint Convention on safety of spent fuel management and on safety of radioactive waste management. In the nuclear civil liability area, France participates in the improvement of the existing system. As to environmental issues, France is a party to the OSPAR convention and to the convention for the prevention of sea pollution from waste dumping.

Mr. Chairman:

The extensive use of nuclear power and the international cooperation activity in that area make it necessary to transport nuclear material and occasionally waste. These shipments represent only a small fraction of the global amount of hazardous material transport. France, however, attaches the greatest importance to the maintaining of the highest level of safety and security when transporting nuclear and radioactive material, in compliance with the most stringent international standards. On this issue, as in all matters related to nuclear safety, we intend to maintain full transparency and inform the countries concerned of the conditions of shipment. However, the right of navigation and the freedom of the seas, as stipulated in the relevant instruments of international law, cannot be infringed upon. A certain amount of freedom must therefore remain in maritime and cross-border shipping.

France is a party to the international conventions directly or indirectly applicable to radioactive material transport, especially in the areas of civil liability, notification reports and assistance in the event of a nuclear accident, as well as in that of nuclear material physical protection. France participates in the work of the relevant organizations, such as the IAEA and the IMO, and incorporates their decisions into its national legislation. Specifically, vessels of French registry transporting spent nuclear fuel, Plutonium or highly active radioactive waste in drums must meet the requirements of IMO resolution A748(18) adopted on November 4, 1993.

France participates in efforts to upgrade safety standards and works at facilitating the implementation of the new standards as they are adopted. As an example, France participated in the 1998 IAEA meeting for recording the international instruments covering the safety of radioactive material transport. France has also taken steps to permit the approval of the Joint Convention, and is a member of the task group appointed to review the convention on physical protection and its implementation.

Mr. Chairman:

3) The third imperative which must be associated with the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy is transparency. France believes that nuclear developments should take place in a context of the greatest transparency, so that governments and the public are fully aware of the issues at stake and the resources deployed. As emphasized by the IAEA Director General and the other speakers at the Scientific Forum on the role of nuclear energy in sustainable development, held during the IAEA 43rd General Conference, an understanding of the issues, and the acceptance of the challenges by the public and the governments requires that all players in the nuclear field provide more information and improved transparency. We in France are committed to pursuing our ongoing efforts to promote information and transparency, particularly in the area of safety. While reasserting the general orientations of its nuclear policy, and the choice of nuclear energy as the mainstay of national power generation, the French government intends to pursue a policy particularly attentive to the monitoring and transparency of the nuclear industry and to the independence and plurality of expert advice on safety and radioprotection issues.

As regards nuclear materials, France is also attached to transparency in the management of its stockpile of Plutonium for peaceful applications. France is a member of the nine-States group which signed the guidelines for the management of Plutonium for peaceful applications, enacted in 1997. Every year, we communicate the status of our stockpile of non-strategic Plutonium, which is published by IAEA, and information on our policy in that area.

Mr. Chairman:

Improved control of the risks associated with the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, in connection with proliferation or accidents, while maintaining transparency, will make public opinion more discerning regarding the potential benefits of this energy can bring. The Kyoto Conference and others, more recent, have highlighted the difficulties in meeting the growing energy demand associated with sustainable development while reducing the emission of greenhouse gas conducive to global warming. However, nuclear energy will not make its full impact unless it succeeds in convincing public opinion that it is safe and environment-friendly. In this area also, international cooperation is a must.

Mr. Chairman:

The development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy is one of the vital issues of the 21st century, as it will enable mankind to face up to the tremendous economic and human challenges arising from the strong growth in a number of regions; their demands for energy, food and health care must be met while preserving the environment. An essential condition to that development is a climate of confidence, which requires compliance with non-proliferation commitments and the enhancement of safety and transparency. The promotion of peaceful applications of nuclear energy and international cooperation in this field, one of the three foundation pillars of the NPT, is a mission entrusted to us by Article IV of the Treaty. France's wish is that efforts in that direction be given all the attention they require, and gain a strong momentum following this Year 2000 Review Conference.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.