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Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, France on Article IV, April 21, 1997

Implementation of Article IV

Statement by France

1. For many years now, France has made a resolute choice to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in order to safeguard its energy independence. Accordingly, it has built a large number of nuclear reactors, which today produce 80 per cent of the electricity consumed in France. In order to supply these reactors, France has also developed a complete nuclear fuel cycle, from conversion to recycling.

2. France believes that nuclear power will make it possible in years to come to meet the growing demand for energy resulting from the economic development taking place in the world.

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Accordingly, it has adopted a policy of broad-based cooperation in the nuclear field with a view to responding to the legitimate aspirations of the developing countries. This policy of cooperation in the field of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which comes within the framework of article IV of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), today spans all sectors, from food irradiation to the fuel cycle, and takes many forms, including pure and applied research, training, technical assistance, exports and technology transfer.

3. This broad-based cooperation is, first of all, bilateral: 26 intergovernmental agreements have been signed with a wide range of countries, including 17 developing countries.

4. This assistance is also multilateral: first, through the European Union, as demonstrated by the crucial role played by the Poland-Hungary Aid for the Reconstruction of the Economy (PHARE) and the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States and Georgia (TACIS) programmes in advancing nuclear safety in Eastern Europe; and secondly through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). France's contribution to the Agency's Technical Cooperation Fund amounts to 6.39 per cent. It should also be stressed that unlike other States, France renews this contribution annually. Regular contributions are essential to the continuity and, hence, the effectiveness of the Agency's efforts.

5. Two conditions seem essential to the success of this broad-based cooperation policy, namely, vigilance with respect to non-proliferation and the promotion of a culture of nuclear safety.

6. It goes without saying that any cooperation policy in the nuclear field must be formulated and implemented in strict compliance with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, particularly articles I, II and III thereof. These three articles lay down the conditions under which nuclear trade can and must be conducted. If these conditions did not exist, no trading could take place.

7. One hears it said at times that the non-proliferation conditions imposed on trading in the nuclear sector restrict such trading and are an obstacle to the legitimate aspiration of all States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This chorus of criticism questions, in particular, the verification of exports of nuclear equipment and technology. However, quite apart from the fact that it is provided for explicitly in article III, paragraph 2, of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, France believes that such verification, far from hindering nuclear trade, is its essential corollary, provided, of course, that it is both objective and transparent. As far as objectivity is concerned, France attaches the utmost importance to the fact that any decision to deny authorization to export must be based on objective considerations, not on presumption. Moreover, the rules on which such verification is based must apply equally to all parties. Transparency, for its part, is the object of the transparency exercise undertaken by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in an effort to combat some of the misconceptions and prejudices surrounding supplier groups.

8. All criticism, in fact, focuses on supplier groups, such as the Zangger Committee and NSG. It should be quite clear, however, that these groups could not, under any circumstances, constitute a so-called "suppliers cartel", as they have no decision-making powers: such powers are exercised at the national level. The groups confine themselves to harmonizing export control regulations and practices with a view, in particular, to preventing proliferating States from exploiting regulatory differences between suppliers for their own ends. It should be added that such controls, which supplier groups are simply harmonizing, apply just as stringently to members of these groups. They are not at all discriminatory, as is sometimes claimed.

9. Nuclear safety is another vital prerequisite for the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as was strongly emphasized by the Heads of State and Government of the Group of Seven (G-7) countries and the Russian Federation at their meeting in Moscow on 19 and 20 April 1996.

10. The establishment of safety authorities, the enactment of regulations on the control, compatibility and physical protection of nuclear materials, and safe and effective nuclear waste management are essential for developing a culture of nuclear safety in each country and for guaranteeing optimum development of the peaceful uses of the atom. While responsibility in this area rests first and foremost with individual States, international cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral, must also be developed and must permit the sharing of experience, the harmonization of regulations and the definition of common standards. France is working tirelessly, and will continue to work towards that end.

11. It is in this spirit that France also calls on all States to accede rapidly to the relevant conventions, in particular, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

12. In the end, far from preventing the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, these conditions of non-proliferation and safety actually make such development possible, by basing trade on trust. If we all work together to strengthen and observe these conditions, nuclear energy can become, as we would wish it to, a cornerstone of economic development in the next century. Rest assured that France will spare no effort to achieve this.