Friday, 1 April 2011

France urges talks on nuclear safety

France's President Sarkozy holds a news conference at the end of an European Union leaders summit in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS
French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposes a meeting of Group of 20 (G-20) nuclear industry officials next month.
Published: 2011/04/01 07:35:35 AM

FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday proposed a meeting of Group of 20 (G-20) nuclear industry officials next month to start hammering out new global safety standards in the wake of the power plant disaster in Japan.

Japan’s battle to avert a catastrophic meltdown of fuel rods at the earthquake-wrecked facility north of Tokyo has triggered alarm and safety reviews in nuclear-powered countries around the world.

Mr Sarkozy, the first foreign leader to visit Japan since the March 11 disaster, said the incident should not cast doubt on the wisdom of pursuing nuclear energy itself, but on the lack of international norms for ensuring the industry remains safe.

"The problem is more about establishing safety norms than it is about the choice of nuclear energy, for there is no alternative right now," he told a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo.

"We must address this anomaly that there are no international safety norms for nuclear matters. We want international standards because the world is a village and what happens in Japan can have consequences elsewhere."

He said France would ask the nuclear safety authorities of the members of the G -20 to meet in Paris next month to lay groundwork for a special meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in June . "We need international safety standards before the end of the year," he said . France heads the G-20 and Group of Eight for most of this year .

The IAEA draws up nuclear safety standards and recommendations but they are not legally binding. Nuclear safety is primarily the responsibility of member states. There is, however, a Convention on Nuclear Safety drawn up after the accidents at Three Mile Island in the US and at Chernobyl in Ukraine that obliges its 72 signatories to achieve and maintain a high level of safety, largely based on the IAEA principles.

Mr Kan backed the French proposal for a global nuclear review, saying it was Japan’s "duty to accurately share with the world our experience".

Mr Sarkozy, who flew to Tokyo after addressing a G-20 seminar in China on global monetary reform, told Japan it had the support of the world as it strives to contain its nuclear calamity and deal with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that left about 28000 people dead or missing.

France is the world’s most nuclear-dependent country, producing 75% of its electricity from 58 reactors . Reuter

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