by Duyeon Kim and Andrew Carpenter
A High-level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security will be held at the 66th UN General Assembly on September 22nd, 2011 in New York. The conference was called for by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who announced his plans to host the meeting at the 25th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine. The special session comes as a result of increased concern over the safety and security of nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in March 2011.
The special session comes at a time when the global public and nuclear industry have been shaken by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The September 22nd High-level Meeting will focus on the implications of Fukushima for the nuclear industry as it relates to the safety and security of nuclear facilities.
A UN-wide study on the implications of Fukushima will be presented at the meeting.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster raised the specter of a possible terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant. By targeting nuclear plants, terrorists could wreak havoc comparable to that wrought by an earthquake and tsunami. Should multiple hazards coincide – say, a natural disaster like Fukushima or a terrorist strike – plant personnel must respond to each emergency simultaneously. The upcoming meeting is a major international event that can help raise more awareness and the political will needed to implement more effective and integrated safety-security measures.
Secretary-General Ban has stressed that the United Nations has a “clear role to play,” in nuclear safety and security, which he said is a “global public issue.” He has also said the high-level meeting will be an important “bridge” to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Five Point Strategy on Nuclear Safety and SecuritySecretary-General Ban’s remarks at the Summit on the Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy on April 19, 2011, in Kiev provides some clues as to what will be discussed. Below are excerpts from his speech:
1. Top to bottom review of current nuclear safety standards at the international and national level
“Today, the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of nuclear installations lies with national governments. I strongly urge States to consider lessons learned and adopt appropriate measures to apply the highest possible safety standards. This includes safety precautions, staff training, a reliable quality assurance system, and independent regulatory oversight. It also means greater transparency if there is to be public trust. I am encouraged that many Governments are reassessing their national policies and regulations. Last week’s review meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety in Vienna also produced many useful suggestions. I strongly urge those States that have not acceded to the Convention on Nuclear Safety to do so without delay.”
2. Strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) nuclear safety capacity
“The time has come to strengthen the capacity of the IAEA in the further development and universal application of the highest possible nuclear safety standards. The IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in June in Vienna will serve as an important forum in this regard. As a follow-up, I also will consider convening a high-level meeting on strengthening the international nuclear safety regime when world leaders gather in New York this September. We need international standards for construction, agreed guarantees of public safety, full transparency and information-sharing among nations.”
3. Sharpen the focus on the relationship between natural disasters and nuclear safety
“The challenge of climate change is bringing with it greater extremes of weather. Nuclear power plants must be prepared to withstand everything from earthquakes to tsunamis, from fires to floods. I will make sure that disaster preparedness for nuclear accidents is included in the themes of the Third Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva next month.”
4. Conduct a renewed cost-benefit analysis of nuclear power
“The right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy is enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nuclear power will likely continue to be an important resource for many nations and can be a part of a low-carbon-emission energy mix – but it has to become credibly safe, and globally so. Again, it is time to pause and rethink our approach. For this reason, I will launch a UN system-wide study on the implications of the accident at Fukushima. I will ask the relevant UN agencies and specialized organizations to undertake this task.”
5. Strengthen the linkage between nuclear safety and security
“Though nuclear safety and nuclear security are distinct issues, boosting one can bolster the other. At a time when terrorists and others are seeking nuclear materials and technology, stringent safety systems at nuclear power plants will reinforce efforts to strengthen nuclear security. A nuclear power plant that is safer for its community is also one that is more secure for our world. Addressing this challenge requires the active cooperation of the nuclear industry. As I proposed at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last year, a broad-based partnership is essential to building a better framework for nuclear safety and security. Such an approach is critical in the run-up to the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.”
8-8.45 a.m. Opening plenary meeting (General Assembly Hall)
- Chair: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
- Invited speakers (provisional): Heads of States or Government of Brazil, France, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United States, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
9-12.00 p.m. Two parallel interactive ministerial sessions (Conference Rooms 2 and 4, North Lawn Building)
- Both will address “Strengthening Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Disaster Risk Preparedness”
- Co-chair: Member States as designated by the Secretary-General
- Lead discussants: 3-4 designated by the Secretary-General
- Speaker list: made available prior to the meeting
- Intergovernmental organizations and other entities with standing invitations will participate as observers.
12.15-1.00 p.m. Closing plenary meeting (Conference Room 2, North Lawn Building)
- UN Secretary-General presents summary of discussions and transmits it to the 66th General Assembly for consideration.
(Source: UN Office of Disarmament Affairs)
- Develop synergistic safety-security frameworks and consolidated risk-assessment methods.
- Integrate effective safety-security measures at nuclear power plants.
- Implement coordinated emergency response and combined training programs.
- Strengthen IAEA nuclear safety and security standards.
- Strengthen nuclear safety-security governance.
UN Secretary-General Ban has invited Member States to sign, ratify or accede to various international treaties during the General Assembly session in New York. He has placed a special emphasis on multilateral accords dealing with human rights, terrorism prevention, disarmament, and environment protection. His invitation is in line with an annual treaty event initiated in 2000 aimed at raising awareness and promoting participation in international and national treaty frameworks.
The event is entitled “Towards Universal Participation and Implementation” and will be held on September 20-22, 2011. The Secretary-General is the deposit of some 550 multilateral treaties.
International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) – Adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2005, ICSANT obligates State Parties to criminalize offences related to nuclear terrorism under respective national laws and make them punishable. Based on the “extradite or prosecute” regime, it also obliges State Parties to establish jurisdiction (territorial as well as extra-territorial) over the offences stipulated in the Convention, which also defines nuclear materials and defines terrorism as applicable only to individuals.
It entered into force on July 7, 2007 after receiving the required 22 ratifications. ICSANT currently has 115 Signatories and 77 Parties. Click here for the status of ICSANT.
Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) – Secretary-General Ban has invited ministers and high-ranking representatives to ratify the CTBT and discuss ways to enter it into force on September 23, 2011 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The CTBT bans nuclear testing for any purpose.
There are 182 signatories out of the total listed number of 195 States, and 154 have ratified it. Ratification is required from the Annex 2 States (44 States) for the Treaty to enter into force – of them, the United States, China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan have not yet ratified it.
- International Nuclear Safety Group, “The Interface Between Safety and Security at Nuclear Power Plants,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, 2010.
- “International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism,” United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law, New York, 13 April 2005.
- Duyeon Kim, “Fukushima and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit,” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 18 March 2011.
- Igor Khripunov and Duyeon Kim, “Time to Think Nuclear Safety-Security,” The Korea Times. 8 August 2011.
- Igor Khripunov and Duyeon Kim, “Nature and Malice: Confronting Multiple Hazards to Nuclear Power Infrastructure,”The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 7 September 2011.
- Mark Holt and Anthony Andrews, “Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities,” Congressional Research Service. 23 August 2010.