Secretary-General, at event on strengthening preparedness for nuclear accidents, urges closer examination of safety standards, precautions

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Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Round Table on Strengthening Preparedness for Nuclear Accidents, in Geneva today, 10 May:

It is a great honour for me to be here with you. Thank you for being here. I want to thank first of all Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlström for all of her efforts in organizing this event.

Last month, I visited Chernobyl to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disaster. I attended the Kyiv Summit on Safe and Innovative use of Nuclear Energy. During my visit to Ukraine, I launched a five-point plan on nuclear safety. A key feature of that strategy is focusing on the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety.

The tragedy at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has raised questions about the future of nuclear energy and fuelled public fears. Men and women around the world are asking: Are we really doing well and all that we can to safeguard the world’s people in the case of nuclear accidents? Recent events suggest that there are large gaps in how societies and the international system think and act about breaches to nuclear safety.

There is much we can learn from each other. Those countries with advanced nuclear energy technology must ensure that nuclear reactors can withstand multiple hazards — various combinations of an earthquake, tsunami, flood and fire. We must also look more closely at safety standards and precautions. Are they sufficient? We must also look at staff training, quality assurance systems, and independent regulatory oversight.

Today, I encourage you to consider the most effective ways that we can strengthen our cooperation on these issues. How can we enhance coherence and knowledge-sharing among national, regional and international disaster management plans? How can we better integrate specialized knowledge with broader preparedness and planning? How can we most effectively ensure that public messages are communicated in a credible and authoritative manner?

Allow me to offer two specific ways I look for your guidance.

First, I am going to convene a high-level meeting — at ministerial level and above; summit level would be welcome — on 22 September at the General Assembly in New York on nuclear safety and security. I will present a United Nations system-wide study on the implications of the accident at Fukushima and build on my five-point plan. This study will look closely at the emerging nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety.

I have asked Ms. Wahlström to gather the main ideas from today’s discussions and develop them as an input for that report. The September high-level meeting will build on the forthcoming IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Conference in June in Vienna that will address measures needed to enhance nuclear safety in the wake of Fukushima. It will also provide a bridge to the second Nuclear Security Summit meeting next year in Seoul, Korea, by addressing the link between nuclear security and nuclear safety.

My second point concerns the importance of stronger partnership with the nuclear industry. This is critical, both for nuclear safety and nuclear security. Nuclear technology has enormous potential to improve human well-being, enhance medical services, improve agricultural production and promote sustainable economic development. But we must develop a framework that balances the benefits with risk-management strategies.

I invite the relevant specialized agencies and organizations — including the IAEA, UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme], the Nuclear Energy Agency and others — to offer their collective advice on how best we may proceed.

Once again, my many thanks to all of you for participating, I appreciate your strong commitment. You can count on my and the United Nations’ full support in working together to make this world safer and better.

For information media • not an official record