Berlin, 8 October 2007 - "Austria has decided against nuclear energy. We do not regard it as a safe and sustainable source of energy. Nonetheless, we are all facing a comeback of nuclear energy. It is neither Austrian pessimism, nor the nuclear industry’s pipe dream. It is a matter of fact. 439 nuclear reactors are currently in operation, 30 are under construction, and according to estimates by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the number of reactors could rise by over 50% by 2030. Yet with every new uranium enrichment facility, the threat of abuse by building weapons of mass destruction or terrorism grows." These were the clear-cut words Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik used in her introductory speech for the international workshop titled "Nuclear fuel supply - a threat to non-proliferation?" at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin to illustrate the nuclear challenge faced by the international community.
At the invitation of her colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Plassnik presented the Austrian initiative for a multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle to politicians, scientists, and representatives of the nuclear industry from several European countries, and to representatives of the European Parliament and the Commission. The Foreign Minister emphasized that, despite its clear position against the use of nuclear energy, Austria persistently engages in efforts toward disarmament and the non-proliferation of dangerous nuclear technology. "Although we represent different views, we share the same security concerns. Therefore, our common objective must be increased cooperation and greater transparency. We must not accept the threat from nuclear technology and the indications of a new arms race as fateful and unalterable. We can - and must - jointly create an effective multilateral control mechanism that rules out proliferation and not only creates security but also establishes trust", explained Plassnik, pointing out to the international suspicions concerning the true nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.
In this context, Plassnik also expressed criticism to her own ranks: "It is disappointing that the European Union was unable to agree on a clear commitment to the "vision of a world free of nuclear weapons" in the UN Disarmament Committee. The objectives of non-proliferation and the reduction of weapons stockpiles are once again at the top of the global agenda. What we need is a credible revival of multilateralism. How can we convince others to renounce nuclear weapons, when some European states themselves are obviously not prepared to give up theirs?"
Austria is proposing a new global "security partnership" on nuclear issues. This partnership is to be established in addition to the control system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - the limits of which became obvious in the case of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. A first step would be to further expand the IAEA control system, and impose an obligation to report all stages of the fuel cycle to the Agency. At the same time, a gradual multilateralisation would render the IAEA the only legal source for obtaining enriched uranium and nuclear fuel. Since the IAEA would provide a supply guarantee, national enrichment facilities would no longer be required. Finally, control over all existing civilian enrichment and reprocessing facilities should be directly transferred to the IAEA.
"The objective is transparency and control of the entire nuclear fuel cycle. This is an ambitious project, but a retrospective view of European history can serve as an incentive. 50 years ago, the decision by the founding members of European integration to create a community of the coal and steel industries so crucial to the war marked the beginning of the European success story. "Just like the founding fathers of the EU back then, today we need bold and drastic steps in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation to ease international tensions and build up confidence", said Plassnik.
Federal Ministry for
European and International Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213