Steinmeier: Opening speech at the 'International Conference on Nuclear Fuel Supply: Challenges and Opportunities'

17.04.2008 - Speech

Your Excellency Dr. ElBaradei,
distinguished delegates,
ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Mr. Maxime Verhagen, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Mr. David Miliband and myself it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 'International Conference on Nuclear Fuel Supply: Challenges and Opportunities'.

Energy is an important social, economic, environmental and political issue, both nationally and internationally. The central question in this debate is how the growing demand for energy can be met on a global scale. Due to the finiteness of fossil fuels and international awareness of their eventual depletion, states are growing concerned about their ability to meet this demand and guarantee energy security for the future. This gives energy an ever more prominent place on the international security agenda.

The Federal Republic of Germany, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland respect the right of every State to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in accordance with the Non Proliferation Treaty. Discussions on the multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle and guarantee schemes from the standpoint of the three countries must not be misinterpreted as an attempt to infringe these inalienable rights.

It is with this understanding in mind that this conference is highlighting a number of key issues facing countries which have recently announced their interest in introducing nuclear power should be given centre stage: Technical, commercial and political aspects, future development of the uranium market, and presentations on practical experience of nuclear power and fuel supply.

States are looking at their long-term energy needs and will have to make key decisions in the coming years. Some might come to the conclusion that nuclear power will be a component in their national energy mix.

At present, 17% of the global electricity supply, 40% of the OECD and 31% of the European supply is generated from nuclear energy. There are approximately 440 nuclear power plants in the world, with many more planned for the future. This expansion is not only limited to those currently engaged in producing nuclear energy. A considerable number of new States have declared their interest in developing nuclear programmes for a variety of reasons which we respect. Whatever our stance on it is, the growing interest in nuclear energy has become a matter of fact.

For the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany, it is of utmost importance that the nuclear energy is used in a safe, secure and peaceful way. The use of nuclear energy is inevitably linked to the threat of proliferation. It is therefore of equal importance, that the use of nuclear energy is consistent with the highest non-proliferation standards. We are convinced that the participants in this conference, coming from all five continents to Berlin today share this objective.

The IAEA plays a central role in two of three pillars of the NPT, peaceful use of nuclear energy and non-proliferation. It is right to hold non-nuclear weapon states to account for their conduct and take action when they fail to meet their treaty obligations to the IAEA. We must recognise that Nuclear Weapons States have a responsibility to implement their commitment to the third pillar of the NPT, nuclear disarmament. Every country should endeavour to move closer to the ultimate goal, a world free from nuclear weapons.

The right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, consistent with non-proliferation obligations, is enshrined in the NPT. We strongly support this right. But, as the Director-General of the IAEA has noted, nuclear fuel cycle technologies pose specific proliferation risks.

The Federal Republic of Germany, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, are brought together by the Treaty of Almelo, which forms the basis for our collaboration in uranium enrichment through the joint industrial enterprise known as Urenco. Through Urenco, our three countries have gained unique experience in multilateral cooperation regarding nuclear fuel cycle activities in a way that honours the highest non-proliferation standards. As possessors of advanced enrichment technology, we feel a special responsibility to develop further multilateral cooperation in this area.

With this in mind, at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the IAEA, on 13 September 2007 our three countries issued a declaration on multilateral cooperation on energy security in support of Article IV of the NPT. In the declaration, we warmly welcomed the role that the IAEA has played in promoting discussion of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, including nuclear fuel assurances. We stated that we understood that countries do not wish to renounce the possibility of developing fuel cycle activities and as such any scheme of nuclear fuel assurances should not ask States to do this. In this declaration we expressed our readiness to contribute to discussions in the IAEA on the development of guarantee schemes and the multilateralisation of nuclear fuel cycle activities.

This conference gives us an opportunity to follow up our readiness to listen to others, and to explain more about the rationale behind that trilateral declaration.

So far, a number of very useful proposals, ranging from fuel banks to guarantee schemes like the ‘UK Enrichment Bond’ and multilateral enrichment facilities like the German Multilateral Enrichment Sanctuary Project (MESP) have been introduced and discussed at several events.

During this conference, it is our aim to offer international partners a platform for informed discussion of the issues and options for nuclear fuel supply and to bring together decision-makers, technical experts and potential suppliers of enrichment services. To that end, countries that are party to the NPT possessing enrichment facilities and major uranium producing countries have been invited as well.

It is the intention of the three countries organising this conference to provide an open forum for the discussion of all pertinent issues in the spirit of cooperation. We owe it to our future generations.

Your Excellency Dr. ElBaradei, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me conclude this introduction by expressing my gratitude for the effort you have all made to join this conference. As I mentioned earlier, our field of participants represents all continents of the world. On behalf of my colleagues from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, I bid you a warm welcome and wish you an interesting, fruitful and at the same time pleasant conference.

We could not have wished for a better start of this conference: Dr. ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA has agreed to address our gathering. ‘For their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest way’, the IAEA and its Director-General, Mohammed ElBaradei, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. We, the organizers of this conference, are grateful and honoured for the high-level IAEA-delegation, headed by its Director-General, Mr ElBaradei, that is participating in this event.

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