by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 15, 2011
The world's nuclear power plant exporters announced Thursday a first-ever code of conduct, which they hope will raise safety standards, prevent proliferation, and enhance environmental protection.
In a year in which an earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered the worst nuclear crisis in decades and called the future of the industry into question, the firms agreed to six principles addressing everything from physical safety and security to ethics and compensation for damage in the event of an accident.
And while the agreement is voluntary and not legally binding, signatories are embracing a system that, if adhered to, will force states like Iran to comply with a key international nuclear treaty and commit to purely peaceful purposes for atomic power.
The agreement was finalized earlier this year after an arduous three-year process aimed at nailing down corporate standards and nuclear responsibility.
A system of periodic reviews will be established, with the first one coming in December, to monitor compliance.
Ariel Levite of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, the Washington-based think tank that helped draft the pact, said some of the companies had already implemented the standards in dealing with potential client states.
The process, he said, has helped "heighten the sensitivity of the pertinent corporations, not just to the responsibilities and the obligations to their shareholders, their home states, the clients, and to... state regulators, but also highlight their nuclear corporate social responsibility duties."
He said the agreement was not meant to bar nations from using nuclear power, but boost compliance with best practices in an industry under intense scrutiny as communities mull whether to go nuclear in order to meet surging energy needs.
"This is not a denial regime, this is not designed to exclude anyone," Levite said.
The code's adopters include French energy giant Areva; Atomstroyexport of Russia; Canada's Candu Energy; US-Japanese firm GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; Korea Electric Power Company; Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba; and US giant Westinghouse.
The China National Nuclear Corporation participated in early talks but did not adopt the code.
The global nuclear industry already has substantial guidelines, but this is the first comprehensive set of norms for the power plant export business.
"They have established a norm," said George Perkovich, director of Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Program, adding that new entrants to the field would be expected to adhere to the same principles.
Areva's corporate business ethics advisor, Olivier Loubiere, said the pact was vital because it "creates a culture of good practice that adds to existing international regulations and national laws."
The principles, he told AFP, "will be much more important for countries that embrace nuclear energy for the first time" because they lay out standards for safety compliance across the board.
Principle 1 expects customer states to be party to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Nuclear Safety -- which would rule out Iran and North Korea, two nations with nuclear power that have been at the center of international disputes over their weapons agenda.
By requiring vendors to adopt safeguards like proliferation-resistant designs in their plants, the exporters "are demonstrating that they will act as responsible stakeholders of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime," said Pierre Goldschmidt, a former IAEA deputy director general of safeguards.
There are presently some 440 nuclear reactors in 30 countries.
The IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, has said 60 countries have recently expressed interest in acquiring a nuclear power plant, and that about 15 of them may acquire a reactor or start building one over the next decade.
Competition for the billion-dollar business is fierce. Perkovich said the companies involved were careful not to produce a document which could end up dramatically limiting countries' abilities to comply with the principles.
"This is why there was a lot of back and forth, and why it wasn't just something that could be done in a day," he said.
Nuclear Power News - Nuclear Science, Nuclear Technology
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Areva suspends some uranium production after Japan quake
Paris (AFP) Sept 15, 2011
French nuclear giant Areva is suspending uranium production at two plants because of low demand from Japanese power stations in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Production at subsidiary Comhurex's Malvesi and Tricastin sites will be suspended for two months because of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and swamped a nuclear site six month ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|