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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

C.S. ELIOT KANG'S REMARK'S AT DIPLOMATIC CONFERENCE ON THE CONVENTION ON NUCLEAR SAFETY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Diplomatic Conference on the Convention on Nuclear Safety
Remarks
C.S. Eliot Kang
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna, Austria
February 9, 2015

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Colleagues,

Allow me to start by congratulating Ambassador Grossi on his election as President of the Diplomatic Conference, and assuring him of the full support of the United States for his efforts to make this a successful conference. Thank you, Ambassador Grossi, for agreeing to lead the informal working group meetings. Your leadership, guidance, and support were invaluable as we worked together to make the Convention on Nuclear Safety more effective in ensuring a high level of safety at nuclear installations around the world. This is a top priority for the United States.

We recognize and appreciate Switzerland’s efforts to raise the profile of the important issue of nuclear safety. We would also like to thank the parties to the Convention for the active dialogue over the past several months. This Convention was founded on the principle that a multilateral, incentive-based approach provides the best way to ensure a high level of nuclear safety worldwide. It allows safety standards and guidance to be strengthened by taking into account emerging technologies and lessons learned. The process leading up to this conference has once again proven the wisdom of that approach.

The United States strongly supports the Convention and views it as an important instrument for international cooperation. Although safety remains a national responsibility, international cooperation through a process of robust peer review is indispensable for strengthening nuclear safety. Nuclear safety is an ongoing concern, and its continuous, timely improvement should be our shared objective.

The Fukushima accident was a wake-up call for all of us. In the United States, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted an exhaustive review of our nuclear power plants and required significant safety enhancements in light of the lessons learned from Fukushima. Those enhancements are now well under way at U.S. plants, with a most of the major work expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

At the same time, the international community has come together to strengthen safety standards through a variety of efforts. The parties to this Convention led some of the most important of those efforts. In particular, the changes to the Convention’s guidance that we undertook at the 6th Review Meeting in April 2014, demonstrate our collective determination to reinforce nuclear safety. To make this incentive convention function as it should, parties report on their implementation of obligations under the Convention with reference to contemporaneous guidance reflecting internationally formulated safety guidelines. Thanks to the work we have undertaken, the guidance that was updated and put into effect in April 2014 incorporates key lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. This ability to immediately update guidance and safety standards -- without amending the Convention – makes the Convention a modern, relevant, and effective instrument to improve nuclear safety well into the future.

We are now here at this diplomatic conference to consider how to build on that work and continue moving the Convention forward. As many parties have expressed during the preparatory process, the best way to do that is to commit and dedicate ourselves to vigorous implementation of the Convention. The United States appreciates the work of the Chair in helping to put on paper the views of the parties as they have been expressed over the past several months. We believe the proposed Vienna Declaration is an excellent reflection of the consensus among the parties to the Convention and we are ready to support it. Achieving consensus at the Diplomatic Conference sends a crucial message to the international community and the public that we stand united on the importance of nuclear safety and are taking timely and responsive action to improve it.

Mr. Chairman, we all live in an increasingly interdependent world. This certainly holds true for nuclear safety. The declaration before us represents a political commitment to reinvigorate the principles of the Convention itself, and by coming together as a community to endorse it, we will be sending a powerful message to the world. We are telling the world that we understand our responsibilities and are meeting them in a way that can inspire confidence in the future peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology.

We hope that all parties to the Convention will join us in supporting the proposed consensus outcome and commit to follow the principles outlined in the Declaration.