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The G-7 Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security : A Summit Primer
By Mark Hibbs

jeudi 10 avril 2003


PART II : Nuclear Security
PART I : Safety of Civil Nuclear Installations

On April 19-20, leaders of the G-7 countries, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus will meet in Moscow to review progress in nuclear power safety and the security of nuclear weapon materials in the former Soviet Union. This Summit Primer, prepared by Mark Hibbs, a nuclear investigative reporter with Nucleonics Week, provides an advance, issue-by-issue review of those items formally on the Summit agenda. Along with the G-7 agenda, meetings among the leaders in Moscow will include a number of broader discussions on nuclear-related issues. - {{Background and Agenda }} Last fall, G-7 leaders and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to hold a nuclear summit conference in Moscow during the spring of 1996. The decision was made in anticipation of both the 10th anniversary of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl-4 nuclear reactor and the 1996 presidential elections in the Russian Federation, and amid growing concern about the security of nuclear inventories in the former Soviet Union (FSU). In addition, the G-7 group of advanced western industrial countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - had previously made a number of assurances that they would intensify nuclear cooperation with Russia. Prior to setting the conference agenda, the G-7 sought firm commitments from President Yeltsin that Russia would provide more information about its nuclear inventories to the G-7, would sign the international nuclear safety convention, and would assure G-7 members that they and their industries would not be subject to damage claims related to Western assistance to upgrade Soviet-design nuclear power plants. Russia agreed to take some of these steps, while also seeking both to reassure G-7 leaders it has not lost control of its nuclear weapons-related infrastructure. Russia also sought to create a platform to demonstrate that it had overcome safety deficiencies which led to the accident at Chernobyl. According to preparatory documents obtained in early March by Nucleonics Week from diplomatic sources, the agenda for the G-7 summit, to be held in Moscow on April 19-20, and chaired by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac, will be divided into two halves. The first half will be subdivided into four topics, and the second half into three topics, as follows : - [PART I: Safety of Civil Nuclear Installations->article 126] -* A. Nuclear Safety -* B. Nuclear Liability -* C. Energy Sector Reform -* D. Nuclear Waste Management - [PART II: Nuclear Security ->art127] -* E. Illicit Trafficking -* F. Nuclear Materials Control and Accountancy -* G. Conversion of Weapons Material Each of the eight summit topics will be dealt with by a negotiating task force consisting of members of all delegations involved in the conference. The result of each negotiating group will be included in the final communique, which will serve as the formal record of the conference. The agenda was agreed to in late February. Before then, at least one G-7 government had reconsidered whether it should even attend the event, because of lack of agenda focus, the hidden but transparent summit goal of aiding the Yeltsin election campaign, and Russian opposition to certain topics proposed by G-7. While the G-7 preferred to concentrate upon nuclear materials security issues and the threat of loose nukes," Russia sought instead to steer the summit toward less-controversial issues of nuclear safety - a nd only for civil installations, preferring to bracket out any discussion of Russia's nuclear defense materials or facilities. In preparing the agenda, Russia blocked any discussion of its military nuclear facilities or programs, claiming that its national sovereignty would be at the disposition of the G-7 if these were discussed. G-7 "sherpas" - senior-level diplomats from each country who were responsible for the organization of the summit conference (the term denotes Himalayan cargo carries on mountaineering expeditions) - conceded early on that any inferences that Moscow could not control its nuclear inventories would be counterproductive to the "boost Yeltsin" aspect of the summit. Highlighting Russian nuclear material security problems would presumably play into the hands of Russian nationalists who will oppose Yeltsin during forthcoming elections. Also at an early stage of the planning, G-7 members proposed that Belarus and Ukraine, the two countries most traumatized by Chernobyl fallout, attend the summit. (Chernobyl is in Ukraine, only a few kilometers from the Belarus border). While the nuclear security side of the agenda might have prompted including Kazakhstan in the summit (it, like Ukraine and Belarus, is committed to putting all its nuclear infrastructure under international inspections and removing all nuclear warheads to Russia), G-7 officials did not do so, in part because the Russian side indicated at the outset it would try to limit the scope of the fissile material agenda. As it turned out, Ukraine and Belarus participation proved problematic enough. Russia, seeking to bolster its status as the equal partner of G-7 states ("G-7 plus one"), initially refused to allow Ukraine and Belarus to attend the summit on an equal basis with Russia, and sought to limit their participation only to discussions of nuclear safety issues directly related to the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. On this issue, however, the G-7 states prevailed, and all three FSU countries are expected to be involved in the entire conference agenda. It also became clear early in pre-summit discussions that, just as the status of Ukraine and Belarus at the meeting required definition, not all G-7 states would come to the summit as equals. Particularly on issues of nuclear materials security, the nuclear weapon state members-the U.S., Britain, and France-would enjoy greater access to Russian information than non-nuclear weapon states such as Germany, Japan, and Canada. Participation of non-nuclear weapons states would work to the diplomatic advantage of Russia (which could object that, for nonproliferation reasons, G-7 could not serve as a forum for discussion of sensitive nuclear defense activities), while making sure the text of the final communique would be of a general nature.

 


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