Full Steam Ahead: Day 8 of the NPT PrepCom

May 2, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 marked the eighth day of the ten-day second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Delegations continued to make statements on Cluster 3 issues generally pertaining to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and on more specific issues, including Article X of the Treaty and its withdrawal provisions. However, the plenary session was relatively quiet as each of the regional groups met with the Chair in closed meetings a separate room to discuss the draft text of the Chair’s summary.

Morning Plenary

During the morning plenary, states parties continued to deliver statements on the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty pertaining to the inalienable right of all parties to the Treaty to research, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Most delegations focused on nuclear power, whether or not their countries rely on nuclear energy in their energy mixes. Austria, for example, pointed out that Article IV, which grants the right to use nuclear energy, also ensures that countries have the option not to use power. Yet it was evident from many countries’ statements that the advantages of nuclear energy are not contained solely to the sphere of electricity, but can also be used for other development projects, such as new cancer therapies or ensuring the sustainable use of water resources.

Nevertheless, several delegations noted the safety issues inherent in the development and use of nuclear energy and called on states to sign on to global nuclear safety and security instruments. The delegation of Ireland commented that nuclear incidents are not national events, but have cross-border consequences; therefore, efforts to prevent such incidents should include a high level of transnational cooperation.

Side Events

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change sponsored an event on the government’s plans to establish a new nuclear energy program, featuring presentations from Jo Adamson, the UK Permanent Representative in Geneva; Peter Carter, Head of Nuclear Nonproliferation at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change; and Peter Haslam, Public Policy Advisor, Nuclear Industry Association. The speakers described the current state of the nuclear energy industry in the United Kingdom and noted that a majority of the British public thinks that nuclear power should be included in the country’s energy mix for the future, but that many of the facilities in the United Kingdom are going out of date. There is therefore a plan to renew the United Kingdom’s program by developing a fleet of new reactors. Such a renewal, however, would require cooperation between the government, regulators, and the national industry. The speakers observed that the new nuclear build will focus on current nuclear technologies and Generation 3 designs rather than moving ahead with next-generation technologies such as smaller modular plants.

A second side event was hosted by the Strategic Concept for Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), which was founded in Vienna earlier this year. The purpose of SCRAP is to consider mechanisms that can be used to accomplish the goal of “general and complete disarmament,” as Article VI requires. SCRAP has drafted a proposal based on existing disarmament mechanisms, including treaties other than the NPT such as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the Arms Trade Treaty. The idea of the proposal is to provide draft negotiating text on a legally binding arrangement for general and complete disarmament.

Finally, the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) hosted a side event focusing on EURATOM’s work, particularly in the areas of safeguards and technical development. Panelists suggested that the EURATOM model could be exported to other regions, and the discussion portion focused on whether it might be feasible to use a similar model in Asia or the Middle East.

Afternoon Plenary

Delegations used the afternoon session to give statements on a variety of issues, including Article X of the NPT and the right of withdrawal, the strengthened review process, and nuclear safety and security. With regard to Article X, several delegations, particularly France, argued that clarifications needed to be made to the right to withdraw and that the next Review Conference should take action on this front. Iran, however, vehemently disagreed, arguing that there was no consensus in 2010 to take up the issue and that it should therefore not be discussed again. Iran also claimed that withdrawal was an unconditional right and that introducing any additional conditions was unacceptable and would require a treaty amendment. Most states parties have not yet commented on the strengthened review process, although the Philippines did note that the states should think about the feasibility and desirability of establishing an Implementation Support Unit for the treaty.

Egypt has not yet returned to the meeting.

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