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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 7, 1999

NGO Statement 7

Article IV of the NPT, the mandate of the IAEA and agreements made between the IAEA and the World Health Organization are documents of their time and reflect historically specific moments in science and in politics. Assumptions made in 1945, or 1968 about nuclear technology have to be reevaluated in a world that has experienced Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. When the Non-

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Proliferation Treaty was negotiated, nuclear power was still a relatively new technology. There were high hopes and indeed some assumptions that it would be safe, clean and cheap and that its proliferation risks could be contained. Experience has now given us the data to say that these assessments cannot be supported. Indeed the risks were gravely underestimated.

In 1999, the inalienable right to nuclear energy as enshrined in Article IV amounts to the inalienable right of an expensive industry to massive subsidies, the inalienable right to expose citizens to routine hazardous releases of radiation and the inalienable right to produce a riddle science cannot yet solve: large quantities of radioactive waste. It is inappropriate to define an activity that is limited to one or two generations in benefit, but results in a liability that will persist for thousands human generations to come, as an "inalienable right".

Based on the facts now available to us about so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy, we will address four areas in this paper: economics, proliferation, releases of radiation and waste.


Nuclear energy is heavily subsidised for political reasons. On Capital Hill in the United States the estimate for the money spent on building reactors that has not yet been recovered is USD $600 billion. When faced with such enormous figures, in this case a 600 billion opportunity cost, we must wonder what renewable, clean, and democratic forms of energy could have been created with such resources. To give an example, $1.7 billion was spent on doing a feasibility study of a waste repository site at Yucca Mountain in the US, whereas 1.9 billion of public funds was spent on solar energy research between 1970 and 1994.

So has nuclear electricity been "too cheap to meter" as the early propaganda predicted? The answer is no. In many countries nuclear power requires direct taxpayer subsidy to be viable. In the United States, where a nearly one quarter of the currently operating reactors are located, electric utility restructuring is subjecting nuclear power to customer choice and competition for the first time. Nuclear power averages at up to 12 cents a kilowatt hour in the US, whereas natural gas and wind turbines are both delivering electricity consistently as low as 3 cents a kilowatt hour - one quarter of the cost.

Industrialised countries are all phasing out nuclear energy facilities or planning to do so, due to well informed community opposition in the north. The energy assistance offered to the global south by industrialised countries, under the pretext of honouring inalienable rights, is actually debt producing, and has the function of maintaining the wealth of large corporations from the north who have not converted their priorities or technology when faced with the hard economic facts of their industry. We see this in the marketing offensive, especially directed at Asia and former Soviet republics at this time.

The search for electricity free of CO2 emissions has currently revived interest in nuclear technology. Indeed, the discovery of global warming has become a great marketing asset to the nuclear industry, an industry in decline. Global warming is a real problem and one that should be energetically addressed, but this serious problem cannot magically transform a problematic industry into a good source. Nuclear power plant optimisation is a bad solution to the greenhouse problem.

Agenda 21 calls on nations to find more effective systems for producing, distributing and consuming energy and for greater reliance on environmentally sound energy systems with special emphasis on renewable energy. Nuclear power plant optimisation as a solution to global warming will require massive investment which would divest resources from the development of clean and renewable energy, while compounding the threat of nuclear accidents and the problems of nuclear waste management.

Mr. Chairman, the inalienable of all peoples to sources of energy is not being disputed here. If there still needs to be a carrot in the NPT which would reward non-nuclear weapons states for not pursuing nuclear weapons with an energy technology, let that technology be renewable and clean. Nuclear power is neither. With fusion energy development we can expect the same products and by-products and we suggest that based on the facts, we know better now. Research and development into fusion energy should cease.


Let us now turn to proliferation issues. With the CTBT, the separation between peaceful uses and proliferation was defeated as an illogical, unscientific and politically dishonest argument. In effect, the entry into force provision of that treaty acknowledges that nuclear reactors equal the capacity for nuclear weapons programmes. We have seen with the examples of Iraq and North Korea, evidence of this fact. With numerous sources of clean energy available at a much cheaper cost than nuclear energy - the motivation for wanting a nuclear energy programme must be seriously questioned.

Some positive developments in nuclear safeguards have taken place and should be built on. Agreements such as the 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety go to the heart of the contradiction inherent in the mandate of the IAEA in recognising the difficulty of simultaneously promoting and controlling an industry. Article 8 paragraph 2 of this agreement states that, "each contracting party shall take the appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organization concerned with the promotion or utilisation of nuclear energy." This article of the 1994 Convention makes visible the need to structurally alter the mandate of the IAEA on the understanding that history has proved the promotion and controlling function unworkable. If the International Atomic Energy Agency promoted the support of the development of sustainable and environmentally safe energy sources, it would be a mandate that fitted better with the role of safeguarding nuclear materials.

Routine Releases of Radiation

The nuclear industry is not clean. The release of radiation from nuclear testing and the routine release of radiation through reactors have contributed to the cancer plague of the 20th century. Genetic impacts are discussed less frequently than cancer. We now know that radionuclides with a long half-life are cumulatively loaded into the environment and may result in ongoing impacts on health as well as long-term damage to the gene pool. Altering the collective gene pool of life on Earth is not an experiment that is reversible. Science today understands in 1999 what it did not fully comprehend in 1945 or perhaps even in 1968: there is no safe level of radiation.


And there is no known solution to nuclear waste, all efforts to isolate the material permanently have failed. Therefore any claim for disposal of this material is premature, and must instead be viewed as simply the posture of an industry that must continue to generate this waste as a by-product of its activity. The movement of waste is simply transferring a problem from one place to another, it will not go away. The targeting of less powerful peoples and nations to become dump sites for the world's nuclear waste in the name of economic development is immoral, and should not be tolerated.

No sovereign nation on earth should be made to bear the brunt of the toxicity of the nuclear age. Without consulting the Australian government, the US-based company, Pangea in partnership with British Nuclear Fuels Limited, has devised a centralised waste repository scheme which would have the hundreds of thousands of tons of irradiated fuel shipped from international sites to the Australian desert for burial. Aboriginal people, citizens and the Australian government have rejected this corporations marketing offensive firmly with Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill stating," We have said clearly and unambiguously we are not interested in becoming a global waste dump." Two weeks ago, the Australian Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of this position.

Under the guise of free trade, we are seeing a phenomenon from many industries including the nuclear industry that Hillary Wainwright describes in the following manner, "When multinational corporations don't get their way, the invisible hand of the market turns into a visible fist." The visible fist of the nuclear industry punches notions of democracy in the face as Pangea continues its marketing strategy despite the clear message delivered by this sovereign nations political mechanism. We all know that the nuclear industry was a necessary component in the development of nuclear weapons, a programme which was conducted in secrecy and in violation of the most basic elements of democracy. How could the history and the culture of the nuclear power industry not be tainted by the fundamentally undemocratic development of nuclear weapons? While the Pangea initiative will fail, it does arouse some concern at the growing stacks of nuclear waste and it does put us all on warning not to repeat the behaviours of the nuclear weapons states in their nuclear inspired assaults on democracy, by truly making decisions about the legacy of the nuclear age in a democratic, open and accountable fashion. Any long-term plan for the storage of nuclear materials from reactors and from dismantled weapons, should not centralise waste, and should not transport waste - the dangers of both are ridiculously high. It should be internationally negotiated and verifiable, and should begin with the only solution to stopping the creation of more waste - closing down the industry as a bad mistake of history, of politics and of science which has since evolved.

Mr. Chairman, through exploring these four elements of Article IV we see it is the fault line along which the non-proliferation function of the Non-Proliferation Treaty cracks. It normalises and legitimises an industry which is economic insanity, environmental suicide, is mutagenic and cancerous.

Thank You.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom,
777 U.N. Plaza, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017, USA
tel (212)682.1265; fax (212)286.8211; flick@igc.org

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
727 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
tel (617)868.5050; fax: (617) 868.2560; datan@igc.org

Nuclear Information and Resource Service
1424 16th Street NW, Suite 404, Washington, DC 20036, USA
tel 1.202.328.0002; fax 1.202.462.2183; maryo@nirs.org