Give South access to civil nuclear technology: France

France on Monday called upon the developed world not to close the door on the havenots by restricting access to civil nuclear energy and termed the North's concerns about the inability of the South to safely manage atomic power “incredibly contemptuous''.

Inaugurating an international conference on access to civil nuclear energy being attended by over 60 countries, many of them from the South, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said the refusal of international financial institutions and developments banks to finance civil nuclear projects was a “scandal''.

It was tantamount to sentencing poor countries to rely on costly energy for eternity.

Marking a departure from the stand taken by the U.S.-U.K. alliance of restricting enrichment and reprocessing technologies to new entrants in nuclear power, Mr. Sarkozy rejected such an approach as it would be a “violation of the legitimate right to develop energy for peaceful purposes''.

“Frankly I don't understand and can't accept why nuclear projects are ostracised,'' he said while terming the denial of carbon credits to countries opting for civil nuclear energy as “outdated ideology'' which distorted the investment choices of developing countries.

Racing through his speech, Mr. Sarkozy limbered up by taking on those calling for reversing growth or relying entirely on renewable energy due to limited oil and gas resources and their adverse impact on the environment. “The ideologies calling for reversing progress offer no solution…The quasi-ideological opposition between nuclear energy and renewable energy sources is out of date. We need both.''

With Europe in the throes of a dilemma over nuclear energy and some countries choosing to cap its expansion, Mr. Sarkozy made it clear that the French approach was to look ahead and in so doing to “serve the cause of mankind'' by reducing pressure on fossil fuel resources and cutting CO2 emissions.

Against the backdrop of developing countries pushing ahead with uranium mining projects and setting up nuclear plants without consulting the local people, he said those times were “long gone''.

Secrecy is the main source of anxiety and rejection. The more transparent projects are the more easily will they be accepted.

“You have to do this. You must be committed to full transparency,'' he told the audience comprising delegates from India, China, Syria, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, Vietnam, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

To enable the developing world access civil nuclear technology, France had increased the number of training slots for students from India, China, Vietnam, Algeria by three times since 2007 (when France began expressing its readiness to help the South).

“This is a good thing. But the figures are very low. We must do better,'' he admitted while announcing France's intention to set up an international network of specialised centres of excellence with teachers and facilities provided by French research centres at Saclay and Cadarache. The first centre will come up in Jordan and the next one in China with the University of Canton.

Devoting just a sentence to next month's global meet on nuclear security in the U.S., Mr. Sarkozy seemed to think that overreliance on this aspect was misplaced.

All major nuclear accidents had happened in the developed world. “North has no lessons to give.'' He also pointed out that essentially all human endeavours were risky.

“Just think of all the disasters and casualties caused by oil, coal and chemicals and gas,'' he said acknowledging that nuclear safety and security must be key concerns. However, they must be treated as collective priority.

While seeking to campaign for the developing countries, Mr. Sarkozy also came down on “cheaters'' who do not respect the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and felt these countries cannot expect international cooperation without living up to their obligations.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 2:47:35 PM |

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