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Nuclear safety and security

Published on September 23, 2011
Sixty-sixth United Nations General Assembly/Meeting on nuclear safety and security – Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic

New York, September 22, 2011

Here we are again six months after the Fukushima disaster. This should firstly be an opportunity for each of us to pay tribute to the courage of the Japanese, their capacity to endure, their tremendous dignity, and the way in which they managed a major crisis.

But six months after Fukushima, Secretary-General, the international community should hold the right debate. The question is not “nuclear energy or no nuclear energy?” Everyone is free to choose their own energy mix. But who can say that, given the unprecedented demand for energy around the world, we’ll be able to do without nuclear energy, the only energy source that will allow us to honour our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

A country like Japan, which does not have any oil, which does not have any gas – do you think that one of the largest economies in the world will be able to function just with solar and wind power?

The demand for energy is the key to growth and development. The real question isn’t “nuclear energy or no nuclear energy?”, it’s “how safe can we make nuclear energy?” That’s what we should be focusing all our efforts on.

And I’d like, if I may, to make a few comments.

The first, Secretary-General, is that the absurd truth today is that it’s easier for the international community to start monitoring a military nuclear facility than a civilian nuclear facility. That’s the first anomaly. Nuclear energy for military purposes poses considerable problems, but civilian nuclear energy also poses considerable problems in terms of safety.

France argues that each country with access to civilian nuclear energy – and we believe all countries have the right to gain access to civilian nuclear technology – must firstly establish their own independent nuclear safety authority. France has one. That hasn’t always been the case.

To all countries that want to develop civilian nuclear energy, we want to say, “it’s only possible if your fellow citizens know that, thanks to an independent supervisory body, the safety criteria will be the best possible.”

The second proposal we’d like to make relates to the rapid intervention force. When there’s a nuclear accident, borders can’t contain it. The rapid intervention force doesn’t call countries’ national sovereignty into question. The rapid intervention force is essential for nuclear safety.

Third comment: a regional and global skills development training centre must be established. Nuclear technology, nuclear safety technology must be developed throughout the world.

Lastly, France argues for what’s referred to as the peer review system. Secretary-General, I know a number of countries prefer a voluntary review system. France would be prepared to accept a mandatory review system. Why? Because nuclear energy must go hand in hand with the highest level of safety. It’s not nuclear energy or safety, it’s nuclear energy and safety. And to ensure safety, we must have a mandatory peer review system, a training centre, a rapid intervention force and an independent authority.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what France would like to contribute to your debates.
Thank you./.

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