On 7 July, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organized a webinar on the role of nuclear and radiological safety in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology as the final webinar on the pillars of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy).
The goal of this webinar was to foster dialogue on the importance of nuclear safety through expert testimonies and consideration of questions regarding how the NPT and its Review Conferences could promote nuclear and radiological safety as well as promote the intersection between Governments, national regulators, the industry, and the IAEA. It also sought to explore different options to build capacity, widen, sustain, and transfer knowledge on nuclear safety to developing countries. The webinar brought in a number of speakers and invited participation from interested parties as well.
The event began with brief statements from the moderator, Ambassador Ingeborg Denissen of the Netherlands, who reaffirmed the role of the NPT in granting access to and facilitating peaceful use of nuclear materials. She also reiterated how the IAEA facilitated those endeavors by promoting cooperation between States Parties. Ambassador Denissen introduced topics that the webinar sought to address on the status of nuclear safety and prospects moving forwards.
Mr. Thomas Markram, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, provided opening remarks highlighting nuclear security as a crucial factor in facilitating the benefits of nuclear science and technology. He emphasized that the benefits of peaceful use continue to grow, particularly in non-power applications as did its contribution towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Noting the impact that a nuclear disaster would have on not only the population but the environment as well, Mr. Markram proposed that the upcoming NPT Review Conference should promote universal safety measures.
In the keynote address, Ms. Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security, spoke about how IAEA activities contributed to global energy needs and the promotion of other peaceful uses. She cited Article IV of the NPT and reaffirmed the objective of the IAEA to accelerate and enlarge global opportunities to utilize nuclear materials to harness nuclear energy and for other peaceful applications.
Ms. Evrard described how the IAEA promoted cooperation to strengthen safety and security frameworks as well as supported mechanisms for information exchange between States Parties, emphasizing that the Agency served as a 24/7 global center, which coordinated the international emergency response.
Looking to the future, Ms. Evrard detailed the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative, in which the IAEA would lead the initiative on small modular reactors to facilitate their safe and secure deployment. She also discussed IAEA guidelines on end of fuel cycle material disposal and on exposure to ionizing radiation. Concerning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the IAEA has determined that most of the seven pillars (physical integrity, functionality, capability of staff without pressure, secure off-site power supply from the grid for all nuclear sites, uninterrupted logistical supply chains, effective on-site and off-site radiation monitoring systems, and reliable communications with the regulator and others) have been compromised over the last 5 months at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station since Russia took control. She stated that the upcoming Review Conference would be a great opportunity for dialogue to improve nuclear and radiological safety.
The event included statements from three panelists, Mr. Juan Carlos Lentijo (President of the Nuclear Safety Council, Spain), Mr. Bismark Tyobeka (Principal and Vice-Chancellor – North-West University, former Head of the South African Nuclear Regulatory Body, South Africa), and Ms. Sol Pedre (General Manager of CAREM Project at the National Commission of Atomic Energy, Argentina) who provided professional perspectives on the importance of nuclear safety and peaceful use as a main pillar of the NPT.
The speakers emphasized how robust nuclear safety mechanisms are a fundamental aspect of peaceful use, the importance of showing commitment to pillar three through the responsible use of nuclear materials, and the importance of legal instruments outside of the NPT such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its Amendment. In addition to providing information on national implementation of nuclear safety measures, the panelists also responded to a question on sufficient nuclear safety as a pre-condition for access to nuclear materials, where they discussed potential information exchange between suppliers and recipients, the responsibilities and accountability in the right to peaceful use, and the necessity of patience and consideration with development of nuclear safety.
The event closed with the president-designate to the 10th NPT Review Conference Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen highlighting the significant contributions of the webinar series, which began in 2020 and played an important role in maintaining momentum leading up to the Tenth NPT Review Conference which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that he strongly supported an inclusive Review Conference where all relevant stakeholders would have their opinions heard, and emphasized that governments and industry have much to learn from each other on nuclear safety. He emphasized the NPT as the centerpiece of the array of relevant treaties to nuclear safety and reminded participants that treaties remained essential to codify best practices. While recognizing that States Parties would determine the substance of the upcoming Review Conference, he proposed that it should stress universal adherence to all relevant nuclear safety instruments. He noted that nuclear safety facilitated the expansion of nuclear science and development, but was not possible without the highest safety standards applied to peaceful use.