Nuclear Safety Convention Opened for Signature

Article excerpt

An International Convention on Nuclear Safety --the first legal instrument that directly addresses the issue of nuclear power plants safety worldwide--was opened for signature on 20 September at the thirty-eighth session (19-23 September, Vienna) of the General Conference of International Atom Energy Agency (IAEA).

Completed after three years of work, the Convention applies to land-based civil nuclear power plants and obliges the parties to establish and maintain proper legislative and regulatory framework to govern safety. Through the Convention, States commit themselves to fundamental safety principles for nuclear installations, and agree to participate in periodic peer review meetings on implementation of their obligations.

The Convention--signed on 20 September by 38 countries, including Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States--is to enter into force on the nineteenth day after the 22nd instrument of ratification is deposited with the IAEA.

Earlier, an extensive overview of present and future plans for global electricity production involving nuclear power had taken place at an IAEA-organized conference on nuclear power option (5-8 September, Vienna).

A `higher profile'

In his message to the General Conference on 19 September, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali noted that the IAEA's work had assumed a "higher profile" than at any other time in its history. Citing last year's General Assembly resolution recommending that negotiations begin on an international treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, the Secretary-General said the Agency, with its extensive experience in safeguards verification activities, was "well placed to play a key role in both the development and implementation of such a treaty". Agency assistance was also a factor in devising effective methods to ensure that illicit nuclear material did not become available "to the highest bidder on the international black market".

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remained the "cornerstone of international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons" and maintenance of its integrity must be a "top priority" of the IAEA and UN Member States as a whole, he said. He hoped Member States would agree to extend the Treaty indefinitely and unconditionally. …