France calls for mandatory international nuclear checks

22nd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

France on Thursday called for an international rapid reaction force to handle nuclear crises and for mandatory international inspections of civilian nuclear programs.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a UN nuclear safety summit that "nuclear energy must go hand in hand with the highest level of safety and security."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the summit in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 that left almost 20,000 dead or missing.

Ban said the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster in Japan and the Chernobyl catastrophe in Ukraine in 1985 had been "a wake-up call" to the world.

Sarkozy said it was an "anomaly" in international regulation that "it is easier for the international community to begin oversight on a military nuclear facility than on a civilian nuclear facility."

He said every country had the right to civilian nuclear energy but "these countries should first of all have an authority with independent oversight over nuclear energy."

Sarkozy added that an international rapid intervention force would be "a crucial element for nuclear safety and security" saying it would "not question national sovereignty."

The French leader, whose country relies on nuclear power for about 75 percent of its energy, said there should be compulsory international reviews of nuclear power programs.

"France would be ready to accept a mandatory review. Why? because nuclear energy must go hand in hand with the highest level of safety and security," he told the summit.

France has already made proposals at the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international forums, said its Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

The minister told AFP there was a global debate over whether international checks should be compulsory, but that France hoped to have firm proposals discussed at a nuclear safety conference in South Korea in June next year.

Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his country was determined to raise its nuclear safety "to the highest level in the world."

He vowed to disclose all the information on the Fukushima disaster to the world and said a nuclear agency independent of the government would be set up next year.

Noda said Japan also wanted "the reinforcement of the international assistance mechanism in the case of nuclear accidents."

"Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power has been deeply shaken throughout the world," Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, told the summit by video link.

"This is entirely understandable. Public anxiety must be taken very seriously. I believe confidence can be restored in time, but only if governments, regulators and plant operators -- and the IAEA -- work together effectively to strengthen nuclear safety everywhere," Amano declared.

© 2011 AFP

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