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France not to toe U.S. line on civilian nuclear energy

France's panache for assertion of independence in foreign policy will be on display at an international conference on nuclear energy to be inaugurated by its President Nicolas Sarkozy here on Monday. The global meet takes place a month before a similar conference to be hosted by the U.S. which will look at access to civil nuclear energy from an entirely different perspective.

“We take into account rules established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ask countries to observe them and no more. The U.S. asks for more by incorporating conditionalities. It is their policy. Our policy is different,'' pointed out Ambassador Denis Gauer, General Secretary for the preparations to the conference.

In this respect, he recalled Mr. Sarkozy's observations which are at variance with those of the U.S.-UK alliance. “We don't want to be the leaders but have a clear position on nuclear energy. France is ready to help any country which wants to acquire civil nuclear energy. We can't have energy for the future for Western countries and have Eastern countries which can't get access to it,'' the French President had said. “That sums up the theme of the conference,'' said Mr. Gauer.

Over 60 countries including Pakistan and India, Israel and Syria will rub shoulders with the U.S. and other developed countries to deliberate on every aspect of developing a nuclear programme provided they fulfilled their international obligations by fully abiding with non-proliferation obligations.

All those who have shown an interest have been invited. France has chosen to invite Israel, India and Pakistan although they have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That is because none has infringed IAEA rules. But an invitation was not sent to Iran because France feels it is not developing its civil nuclear programme in a “responsible way'' and has “infringed international rules.''

Explaining the rationale for the meeting, co-sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and IAEA, officials referred to the nuclear renaissance of the last 15 years during which a number of countries decided to launch civil nuclear programmes.

They include nations that had no involvement at all in this sector as well as those with fledgling projects. All of them, however, have been confronted with needs like appropriate legislation, training, access to research and development and financing. “That is why it is important to organise a conference to address their needs and to guide them on ways of using bilateral and multilateral cooperation,'' reasoned Mr. Gauer. It will also contribute to the much needed dialogue between the states that supply and the states that receive nuclear goods and technologies, he added.

Unlike the U.S., France believes that nuclear energy is an alternative to rising hydrocarbon prices and prospects of reducing resources that is forcing even oil rich countries such as Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Nigeria to look towards nuclear energy as a viable alternative.

“Nuclear energy is capable of meeting this demand. We cannot afford to ignore this pressing and legitimate demand. The international community must therefore share the benefits of civil nuclear energy while preventing proliferation risks, especially those related to the fuel cycle. In fact this is a solution to fulfil the desire expressed at Copenhagen by all countries including the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions,'' pointed out officials.


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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 10:01:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/France-not-to-toe-U.S.-line-on-civilian-nuclear-energy/article16531111.ece

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