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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Cluster 3 Australia, May 14, 1999

Cluster 3




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Mr Chairman

The items clustered loosely under the rubric of the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy are an important element of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Australia regards itself as bound to work with other states that have safeguarded nuclear programmes to ensure that the activities in question (research, production, and use) are indeed exclusively peaceful, safe, and environmentally responsible. As a major supplier of uranium, the starting point for almost all nuclear activities, Australia has a significant role in the global nuclear fuel cycle. Confidence in the end-use of our inputs of raw material and technology, and the institutional and legal framework of the trade, is of obvious importance to us.

The principal vehicle for co-ordinated multilateral efforts to facilitate the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is the Technical Co-operation (TC) programme of the International Atoinic Energy Agency, and its Technical Assistance and Co-operation Fund. Australia places a high priority on our contribution to that fund and calls on all member states of the Agency to ensure that TC activities are adequately resourced. We are confident that the NPT Review Conference next year will acknowledge the progress made by the Agency in reforming TC delivery, leading to a steady upward trend in the rate of project implementation.

In the Asia-Pacific region, we have participated in regional activities to promote co-operation in the field of nuclear science and technology carried out under the auspices of the IAEA's Regional Cooperative Arrangement. Australia has also supported the creation of a Forum for Nuclear Co-operation in Asia, at the 10th International Conference on Nuclear Co-operation in Asia in Tokyo in March this year. We should like to see the Review Conference give explicit support and encouragement to cooperative activities at the regional level, particularly as they relate to the safe management of nuclear facilities.

Mr Chairrnan

I should like to join with others in looking forward to the report to the Review Conference, foreshadowed by Italy, the Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, on the activities of the Group in promoting transparency in nuclear-export controls, and in particular to draw attention to the very successful 2nd International Seminar on the Role of Export Controls in Nuclear Non-Proliferation, held in New York in April 1999.

Australia regards export controls as an important mechanism for meeting its non-proliferation objectives. They are an essential element of responsible national action to prevent nuclear proliferation, and it is only sensible that supplier states co-operate to ensure consistency in their scope and application. As several other delegates have mentioned already, the 1995 NPT Conference decisions included the call for interested states parties to promote transparency in export controls; and the two groups involved, the Zangger Comirittee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, have worked actively to respond to that call, through the publication and public presentation in detail of their activities, and through extensive outreach at the national level. Australia, for example, has engaged in dialogue on non-proliferation and export-control issues with the countries of the South East Asian and South Pacific regions.

Transparency is never finished, and transparency activities must continue in the lead-up to the 2000 Review Conference; but frankly, Mr Chairman, any governments concerned about the theory and practice of export controls could have done no better than to attend the excellent international seminar organised in this very chamber by the NSG last month. At least thirty-four non-NSG countries were represented, and the full range of misapprehensions and apprehensions about the system was fairly discussed. In our view, the Review Conference next year should endorse and support both national export controls and their co-ordination as a legitimate implementation of states parties' obligations under Article III.2 of the NI~F. Export controls do not hinder the access of developing countries to advanced technology. Indeed, they provide a secure environment from which to source supply.

Mr Chairman

The vigilant attention of all states involved in nuclear activities to safety matters is a prerequisite for the industry's sustainability. All governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens and territory from developments that could affect human health and the environment adversely. Governments have a complementary responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Again, this is a point at which to support the work of the IAEA and its member states to strengthen nuclear safety standards and practices, at the global and regional levels. Australia has been an active participant in the Tokyo and Seoul Conferences on Nuclear Safety in Asia, held in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

Turning to international instruments, we expect the Review Conference to welcome the entry into force in October 1996 of the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), and to call for all remaining states that are planning, building, or operating nuclear power plants to adhere to it. Australia participated actively in the first Review Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention, in Vienna last month. At that meeting, there was a general willingness by Contracting Parties to take part in a frank and honest exchange on their and others' nuclear safety policies and practices, including the acknowledgement of areas where improvements needed to be made. Australia believes that the Convention has made, and can continue to make a real contribution to the enhancement of nuclear safety worldwide. Such an outcome will, of course, only be delivered if Contracting Parties continue to take an open and self-critical approach to the writing of national reports and to the review process.

Other achievements of the period since 1995 have included the opening for signature in September 1997 of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the Protocol to Amend the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. These legal instruments should be welcomed by the Review Conference. We also call for further accessions to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, and for an early and successful conclusion of negotiations on a Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Mr Chairman

Much of the work to strengthen the international legal and institutional framework within which nuclear co-operation and commerce takes place focuses - quite rightly - on the interests of countries that are actively engaged in nuclear research or nuclear power generation. But we must not forget that the interests of many more countries are engaged in ensuring that peaceful nuclear activities are carried out in accordance with the highest international standards of safety and security.

In the South Pacific region, small island developing states are certainly conscious of and concerned about the potential for harm inherent in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, particularly with respect to the maritime transport of radioactive materials through their region. At its meeting in Pohnpei last August, the South Pacific Forum, of which Australia is a member, 'reiterated its position that shipments of plutonium and radioactive wastes through the region posed a continuing concern and agreed to adopt a consistent position on the issue, taking into account the risks of an accident occurring and the consequences of such an accident.'

We recall that in accordance with the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision, 'All States should... maintain the highest practicable levels of nuclear safety... and observe standards and guidelines in... transport of nuclear materials.' In recognition of the concern that small island developing states of the South Pacific region have about the maritime transport of nuclear materials through their region, we urge countries engaged in the transport of such materials to continue to ensure that the shipments are made in accordance with established international safety and security standards and that countries in the vicinity of the shipments are provided, where possible and appropriate, with adequate information about shipments. In this context, Australia welcomed the decision of the International Maritime Organization in November 1997 to incorporate the Code for the Safe Carriage of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel, Plutonium and High-Level Radioactive Wastes in Flasks on Board Ships (the INF Code) into the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, as well as the in-principle decision to do the same for the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Australia played a central role in the adoption by the 1998 'ABA General Conference of a Resolution inviting shipping states to provide potentially affected states with appropriate information about their national transport regulations and about their shipments. We would also note the importance, in this context, of the early adherence by shipping states to the recently negotiated instruments on nuclear liability.

Mr Chairman

It is timely for this Preparatory Committee to pay some attention to the Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance issue, even though associated problems should be resolved by the time of the Review Conference. Australia is very supportive of efforts at all levels to prepare for Y2K, in the nuclear field as in all others. We note the serious concerns raised by several non-government organisations over the past week about Y2K implications for both civilian and military nuclear programmes and facilities.

In this context, we should especially recognise the work of the IAEA. We commend to the relevant authorities its guidance documents for nuclear facility operators, waste management, and medical facilities using radiation sources, and urge participation in its forthcoming workshops and in its extrabudgetary special project on nuclear installation safety, which will be co-ordinated with teams from related regional and national institutions. Australia is pleased to be supporting the Agency's extrabudgetary project with a direct financial contribution.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.