The Moscow Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security
1. The End of the Cold War
(A) From East-West Rivalry to Partnership
The end of the Cold War spelled the end of East-West rivalries. As a result, new partnerships on global-scale issues are being fostered between former opponents, including the issue of nuclear safety.
(B) Progress in Nuclear Disarmament and Concerns Regarding Nuclear Non- Proliferation
At the same time, U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction has progressed after the end of the Cold War. How to manage and dispose of fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) derived in large quantities from dismantled nuclear weapons has become a major issue. It is necessary to strictly control fissile material so that it does not fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorists and that it is not diverted for military use. Such strict control is necessary for advancing reduction of nuclear weapons as well.
2. The Safety of Nuclear Reactors and Management of Nuclear Materials
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station accident of April 1986 heightened awareness and raised concern over the safety of nuclear power stations in the republics of the former Soviet Union and other areas. These countries were also undergoing the transition to the market economy system, with an accompanying rise in energy demand. This need to secure more energy has resulted in a trend in which the first concern tends to be for securing sources of energy supply.
Furthermore, in these countries, problems in the management of nuclear materials have arisen due to poor function of governmental organizations.
3. The Chernobyl Accident
(A) Transborder Nuclear Damage
The Chernobyl accident of 26 April 1986 in the former Soviet Union was the largest nuclear accident in history, causing damage not only locally, but also to neighboring countries. This disaster focused international attention on the question of the safety of nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union.
(B) Ten Years After the Chernobyl Accident
The passing of a decade since the Chernobyl accident gives the Moscow Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security an opportunity to increase international awareness of nuclear safety.
4. International Cooperation for Nuclear Safety in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
Most of the Newly Independent States, established after the collapse of the Soviet Union, are in the process of advancing political and economic reforms, but are not in a financial situation to take independent measures necessary for nuclear safety by themselves. Therefore, after the Munich G-7 Summit in 1992, cooperation has been provided by the G-7, various European countries and others to support the improvement of nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
5. The Significance of Nuclear Power in Fulfilling World Energy Demands
There were 432 nuclear power stations operating in the world as of the end of 1995. In addition, power generated by nuclear energy represents approximately 18% of total worldwide power production (1993 statistics). Nuclear power stations have operated primarily in the West, but there have been moves recently toward their new construction in other countries as well. Therefore, it is commonly held that nuclear power will have a significant role to play in meeting the future world energy demand. It is important, therefore, to first ensure the safety of nuclear power in order to fulfill this future role.
Furthermore, to utilize nuclear energy with the public trust, it is necessary to secure openness and transparency.
1. General Outline
(A) Confirming the "Basic Rule of Self-Responsibility"
For the Moscow Summit, to be attended by the leaders of the G-7 countries and the Russian Federation, it is important to affirm that, on the issue of ensuring nuclear safety, the country which owns the nuclear facilities will have the primary responsibility and that a country with nuclear material will have the primary responsibility for its management. Based upon this principle, it is important to bolster each nation's measures on the safety of civilian nuclear reactors, the management of nuclear waste, and the security of nuclear material. Furthermore, it is necessary to appeal to the international community to increase the collective awareness on this issue.
(B) Promotion of International Cooperation
1) If, for any reason, a nuclear accident were to occur, the effects of that accident would also spread across borders to neighboring nations. Furthermore, the illegal transportation of nuclear material threatens the nuclear non-proliferation system, and ultimately the security of the international community. In this regard, the issues of nuclear safety, the management of nuclear waste, and the security of nuclear materials should be of great concern for the international community as a whole, regardless of whether a nation possesses nuclear facilities, radioactive waste, or nuclear materials.
2) Therefore, at the Moscow Summit, with an affirmation of the basic rule of self-responsibility, it is important to focus attention on the promotion of international cooperation on the safety of civilian nuclear reactors, the management of nuclear waste, as well as the security of nuclear material.
(A) The Safety of Civilian Nuclear Reactors
It is necessary to affirm the basic concept of "Safety First" as taking priority over any other considerations that may be present (e.g., commercial profitability, the energy situation in individual nations, etc.).
Based on this concept, it is necessary to reinforce measures not only on the "hard" aspects (use of nuclear materials and equipment that satisfy international safety standards), but also on the "soft" aspects (fostering a culture of nuclear safety, improving the skills of those engaged in nuclear energy production, establishing relevant domestic legislation and an international framework, etc.).
Regarding the establishment of an international framework, there is a nuclear safety treaty which governs the safety principles of civilian nuclear power stations.
This treaty was drafted in September 1994 because of problems which surfaced regarding the safety of nuclear power stations in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The treaty was designed to assure the safety of nuclear facilities in various countries and to improve their safety standards, but has yet to come into effect.
Other applicable treaties that are already in effect are the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency. These were drafted after the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
Furthermore, it is necessary to establish an effective nuclear compensation system in every nation. This is a system whereby the responsibilities of the operators in case of a nuclear accident are clarified and where civil liabilities are stipulated in order to adequately compensate victims of nuclear accidents.
(B) Management of Nuclear Waste
Nuclear waste is inevitable from nuclear activities including the operation of nuclear power stations, and requires medium- to long-term management. Since it is believed that the proper management of these nuclear wastes will contribute tothe appropriate use of nuclear energy, there have been increasing calls in the international community to establish international standards on the management of nuclear waste. Upon receiving these requests, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been deliberating on a radioactive waste safety standard governing the management of nuclear waste, and has also been working on the drafting of an international convention on the safety of radioactive waste management, which is mentioned in the preamble to the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (hereafter the London Convention) (adopted in 1972, effective from 1975) internationally regulates ocean dumping of radioactive waste. In November 1993, the 1993 Amendment to the London Convention on Radioactive Material Dumping was ratified by the signatories, and came into effect in February 1994.
As a result, ocean dumping of low-level radioactive waste was prohibited, along with an already existing ban on the dumping of high-level radioactive waste.
Since Russia has yet to accede to the Amendment of the London Convention, its early adoption of the Amendment is a pressing issue (the G-7 and other major nations have already ratified the Amendment).
In October of 1993, Russia dumped low-level radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan, seriously straining Russo-Japanese relations. A series of high-level protests were made by the Government of Japan, beginning with a protest from then-Foreign Minister Tsutomu Hata to then-Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev of the Russian Federation. Although Russia has not conducted any more acts of ocean dumping since that time, they also have yet to accede to the Amendment to the London Convention.
Japan is cooperating with Russia to construct a liquid radioactive waste storage and processing facility in the Far Eastern region of Russia (the cost of the facility is approximately 2.5 billion yen), as a preventative measure against the repeat of such ocean dumping.
(C) Security of Nuclear Material
Because of recent cases in Europe involving the trafficking of nuclear material (plutonium and uranium), including weapons-grade material, concerns regarding its safe management have been increasing in the international community.
Although the primary responsibility for the security of weapons' fissile material lies with nuclear weapon states themselves, this is a matter of concern for the security of the international community as a whole, and requires international cooperation.
Safe management of nuclear material requires prevention of illicit trafficking in nuclear material, accounting and control, and physical protection of nuclear material.
As a result of progress in nuclear disarmament between the U.S. and Russia, there are growing stocks of weapons-grade fissile material derived from dismantled nuclear weapons. The disposal of these materials in order to prevent their diversion to military use is becoming a new international issue.
Back to Index