World conference on peaceful uses of nuclear energy unable to agree on key political issues
DESPITE EXTENSIVE EFFORTS to reach consensus, the first United Nations global meeting to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy adjourned without reaching agreement on a set of "universally acceptable' principles for international co-operation in the field and ways and means to promote such co-operation. Delegates from 106 countries and numerous United Nations and other organizations discussed those issues, which were to have provided the basis for a final document of the United Nations Conference for the Promotion of International Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, held at Geneva from 23 March to 10 April.
In its final report, the Conference stated that while its debates had reaffirmed that such matters were of importance and a major concern to participants, it "also showed that differences of opinion remained, and the Conference was not able to surmount those differences'.
Two major technical topics were also discussed at the three-week session-- the role of nuclear power for social and economic development and the role of other peaceful applications of nuclear energy. Some 165 reports from Member States, experts and international organizations containing a wealth of practical information on those subjects were also presented.
The Conference said its proceedings had highlighted issues of interest to developing and developed countries and the ways that nuclear energy could be useful to them--from the production of electricity--a major use of nuclear energy--to the various other applications of nuclear techniques in food and agriculture, health and medicine, hydrology, scientific research and industry.
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told the meeting that the splitting of the atom had opened access to a new and important source of energy, which could bring unprecedented advances in beneficial science and technology but could also cause unprecedented destruction. The United Nations, in the four decades of its existence, had "helped to assure that the world would not fall victim to the force of the atom and to encourage, in many ways, its peaceful utilization.
"New opportunities for co-operation amongst nations with different cultures, different values, different beliefs and different social and economic systems have been opened so that the benefits of modern science and technology could be available to all, serving the cause of much needed economic and social development throughout the world,' he said.
Each country must be free to choose for itself the energy sources suited to its national interests, needs and conditions. None should be deprived of access to the technology for peaceful and safe utilization of nuclear power.
However, in an increasingly interdependent world, as long as nuclear energy was in use, close international co-operation would be necessary to ensure, on the one hand, that nuclear technology is not abused or misused, and, on the other, that its benefits are made available in a safe and secure manner, he stated.
International co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy could reach its full potential, he concluded, only in a world from which its potentially destructive uses had been eliminated. It was only logical and wise to see the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons as necessary for the realization of the full peaceful benefits of the atom.
In a closing statement, Conference President Mohamed Shaker of Egypt noted that while there had been lack of agreement on acceptable principles, the intensive debate and wide-scale participation of States had provided irrefutable proof of the Conference's importance. It had also provided a high-level international forum for the expression of views and the exchange of experiences in the field.
States could now have much greater understanding of each other's positions, he said. …