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PART I : Safety of Civil Nuclear Installations

jeudi 10 avril 2003


The G-7 Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security : A Summit Primer
PART II : Nuclear Security

Table des matières A. Nuclear Safety B. Nuclear Liability C. Energy Sector Reform D. Nuclear Waste Management ---- - {{ A. Nuclear Safety }} According to G-7 sherpas preparing the summit meeting, the chief aim here is to make sure that both the Russian Federation and the G-7 states all clearly endorse the existing body of global safety regulations and guidelines. It is expected that Russia and the G-7 will formally endorse the new International Nuclear Safety Convention signed in Vienna in 1995. Russia will likely agree to sign the Convention in Moscow, and that will be approved by G-7 as a commitment to good conduct in nuclear safety affairs. The most interesting and significant question which will arise on this broad subject in Moscow is whether the G-7 and the FSU states will agree to a softening of the 1993 communique from the G-7 Munich summit. That communique, spearheaded by Germany, called for a near-term effort to shut all Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors. The German initiative in 1993 aimed, on the one hand, to eliminate the threat of a nuclear accident on its doorstep which would have the effect of creating domestic political momentum to force Germany to shut down its 20 power reactors, and, on the other hand, to aggressively create a new market in Russia for its own nuclear power industry. Three years later, the Munich communique is a paper resolution. Other key G-7 countries, particularly the U.S. and Japan, have backed off making any hard commitments to finance a replacement of Soviet-design reactors. Even more important, German Environment Minister Klaus Toepfer, who made a political career out of his advocacy of shutting Soviet reactors, was replaced in 1994 by Angela Merkel, who does not share that conviction. One year after taking over the reactor safety portfolio, Merkel began urging caution, and now calls for a "cooperative" relationship with Russia and Ukraine on this delicate matter. A non-confrontational approach is now supported by France and the U.S. as well. The swing in key G-7 opinion, founded on the fact that during the last 10 years the West has not succeeded in shutting a single reactor in the FSU, may also render meaningless a communique signed by G-7 and Ukraine in Ottawa last December, calling for the shutting of the Chernobyl RBMK station itself by 2000. While G-7 governments publicly exhort Ukraine to fulfill the Ottawa accord and shut the plant, ministry-level experts in these countries privately voice deep skepticism. They expect instead that Chernobyl-as well as all other RBMK units-will be operated at least until 2015. G-7 industry has been pressing their leaderships to back off political statements calling for shutting Soviet-design reactors, in the aftermath of a watershed event in Slovakia in 1995. Then, premier Vladimir Meciar issued an ultimatum to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD): Slovakia would not accept an offer of nearly $1-billion in financing to upgrade and finish recent-design pressurized-water reactors (PWR), similar to those in the West, at Mochovce, if the bank and its political backers insisted that older-vintage PWRs, at Jaslovske Bohunice, be shut down for good. Now, Slovakia will continue to ope rate the Bohunice units until 2015 at least, and has begun awarding contracts to local, Czech, and-significantly-Russian industry to upgrade the reactors' safety. It is highly unlikely that Russia at the Moscow summit will agree to any statement which would depreciate the interests of the industrial organizations tied to its powerful Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom). It can be expected to object to any statement in the final communique which would challenge its rights to operate reactors on its territory. A major sideshow at the Moscow event will pit Russia against Belarus and Ukraine. The latter two countries hold Russia responsible for Chernobyl and, thus far without success, have demanded compensation. As noted above, until G-7 countries weighed in, Moscow sought to limit the participation of both Belarus and Ukraine at the meeting. Finally, it is now expected that, in the wake of reports that Chernobyl management failed to disclose a case of excessive radiation exposure to a worker last fall-the incident was considered serious enough to have been classified by Ukraine as a "near accident" on the international nuclear event scale-the G-7 will raise questions about the reliability of plant management at the site to conform with international safety regulations and guidelines. - {{ B. Nuclear Liability }} Non-participation by Russia and Ukraine in international liability agreements is a key reason why so little technical assistance from Western countries has gotten through to Soviet-design reactors in these countries since the Chernobyl accident. At issue are pledges by Russia and Ukraine that they will abide by either the Vienna or Paris Convention on Third-Party Nuclear Liability. These conventions establish the principle that the owner-operator of a nuclear facility in a member state is wholly responsible for safe operation. They also fix a ceiling of liability to be paid by industry and government organizations, and allow for the setting up of a national insurance pool to cover third party liability in the case of an accident. In addition to the failure of Ukraine and Russia to conform with international liability standards, neither country has demonstrated to the G-7 that there is a financial and insurance infrastructure in place to assure that liability damages will be paid in the case of a severe accident. Without such an international liability agreement, a company supplying equipment to a reactor in either country would face billions of U.S. dollars in potential damage claims made by facility operators in the case of a severe accident. The behavior of Ukraine, particularly, in post-1990 negotiations over the status of nuclear weapons on its territory, does not inspire confidence that Kiev or Moscow will act with restraint in this regard. The EBRD has concluded an indemnity statement covering work on safety-related projects financed by the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Account, for the Kola, Novovoronezh, and Leningrad nuclear power stations only. Similarly, some Western countries, and their leading nuclear supply firms, have entered into separate, bilateral negotiations with Russia to settle liability questions in advance of scheduled deliveries of equipment to reactors. But the G-7 wants a more coordinated approach. In part because of national economic competition for the projects, the West is on the threshold of establishing the precedent that the West will assume liability in the case of an accident at a FSU facility. Russia has been negotiating an agreement with G-7 countries on a nuclear liability agreement for over three years, without achieving a major breakthrough yet. While the EBRD-Russian agreement covers work provided by Western companies for EBRD-financed safety projects, it does not provide legal cover for any damage suits that might be brought against vendors or governments outside of the Russian Federation. The insurance industry in the G-7 has been conducting independent surveys to determine whether sovereign Russian or Ukrainian liability pledges can be translated into reality in the case of an accident. The answer thus far is a qualified no. There is also no optimism that Russia will join either the Vienna or Paris conventions anytime soon. One problem is an ongoing debate at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, which is hosting an expert review of the extent of fixed liability coverage under the Vienna Convention. This is set presently at $500 million. But Belarus and Poland - geographically close to the sites of Soviet- designed reactors - are pushing for a radical increase in the liability coverage for operators, into the range of several billion dollars. This is certainly not encouraging Russia or Ukraine to join the conventions. A statement on liability in the Summit's final communique will likely be a general one, since Ukraine and Russia will not be the only states at the summit which have not signed either of the two international conventions. The U.S. and Japan, likewise, are absent and instead have set up their own independent national liability coverage regimes. It is expected that the final communique will call for a global harmonization of nuclear liability law, a subject which thus far has resisted any expert consensus. - {{ C. Energy Sector Reform }} This item was included on the agenda primarily because it follows from lip service uttered at previous G-7 summits urging in general terms the spread of market economy behavior internationally. The agenda item is also particularly linked to the text of last December's Ottawa communique, since G-7 there has already agreed to improve hydropower and fossil-fueled generation equipment in Ukraine as a precondition to shutting Chernobyl. No direct reference at the summit will be made to the situation on the energy markets in FSU countries. But in the background, G-7 has urged FSU to increase energy prices to eliminate waste of resources and permit capital investment in energy production infrastructure - itself a major contribution to nuclear safety. The most pressing area calling for market reform in the Russian nuclear sector is in the complex and opaque relationship between reactors, utility and power distributing organizations, Minatom, and electricity consumers. Last November, Minatom head Viktor Mikhailov warned premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, as well as economic reform czar Chubais, that the economic situation at nuclear power plants was growing worse by the day, and that funds had to be found to prevent workers at three reactors from going on strike. The fundamental problem is Russian law, which in 1994 was changed to virtually forbid power generators from shutting off electricity to individuals and organizations which were not paying their electric bills. That policy was further supported last year, after the decision by a local government to turn off power at a naval base nearly triggered a meltdown in a submarine reactor. In the meantime, while power prices are not allowed to increase, costs of industrial inputs faced by operators of nuclear reactors - skilled labor, engineering services, machines and equipment, and fuel - have risen to Western levels. Officials at the stations admit that the deteriorating financial situation of the reactors is becoming a uclear safety problem. It should be recalled that at Chernobyl-4 in 1986, safety systems had been switched off because it was felt they interfered with electricity production. Similar violations have been recorded by nuclear regulators at reactors in Russia and Ukraine as recently as 1993. - {{ D. Nuclear Waste Management }} This topic will be dealt with briefly at the summit at the request of Japan, which is now involved in a long dispute with Russia over Russia's persistent dumping of low-level liquid waste (LLW) from its Pacific Fleet into the Pacific Ocean. The matter is harming Russo-Japanese relations, already damaged by the feud over the ownership of the Kuril islands. According to Japanese officials, the Pacific nuclear waste issue is preventing Japan from entering into a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia. Japan has agreed in principle to finance treatment of some Russian naval waste, but translating Tokyo's pledges into reality has encountered difficulties, and the issue continues to raise ill-will between Japan and Russia. G-7 officials have said in advance that there will likely be a general decree in the final communique urging all parties, including Russia, to cease dumping of radioactive wastes. Environmental groups on hand at the margin of the G-7 summit would like to broaden the scope of the waste dumping subject to include both Britain and France, which discharge some nuclear wastewater from bulk spent fuel reprocessing plants into European coastal waters.

 


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