21 September 2011
State Dept Background Briefing on Nuclear Safety
Background Briefing: Preview of High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety
September 21, 2011
MODERATOR: Thank you callers for joining us today for this background briefing
on tomorrows High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety at the United Nations.
We are delighted to have as our briefer today [Senior State Department Official],
hereafter known as Senior State Department Official.
Go ahead and start, [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you very much, [Moderator]. Thanks
for being on the call, everyone. The United States welcomed UN Secretary
General Bans call for the High-Level Meeting, that will be conducted
tomorrow, on Nuclear Security and Safety. This meeting is intended to build
political support and momentum at the highest levels for international efforts
to strengthen nuclear safety and security.
As you know, the international community has a lot of lessons to learn from
the recent Fukushima accident in Japan, which resulted from the tragic earthquake
and tsunami that devastated Japan. Indeed, were still learning lessons
from the Chernobyl disaster, which took place over 25 years ago. The most
fundamental lesson for our countries is that nuclear accidents can transcend
national borders and have international consequences. A nuclear accident
anywhere affects all of us, and it is also important that all states do
everything they can to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism
because of the global implications and consequences.
Another critical lesson is the necessity of being prepared for the unexpected,
especially when it comes to nuclear matters. The double disaster of an earthquake
and a tsunami was hard for many to imagine. All states with nuclear power
must apply the highest standards for nuclear safety. And the United States
wants to set the gold standard for nuclear safety and, frankly, that should
be the goal of every state. Its everyones responsibility to own--
of each countrys own regulatory body to ensure that its nuclear facilities
meet the highest standards of safety.
The United States remains committed to nuclear power as an important component
of our energy (inaudible) as well as the worlds. We cannot take nuclear
energy off the table, but it must be safe and secure, which is why the United
States continues to reaffirm the importance of strengthening the IAEA.
This meeting will welcome the IAEA action on nuclear safety, which calls
for states to request voluntary peer reviews on a regular basis to facilitate
transparency and improve standards of nuclear safety. The meeting also highlights
the importance of nuclear safety and compliments the Nuclear Security Summit
that will be hosted next year by South Korea. The South Korea summit is a
follow-on to the Nuclear Security Summit that President Obama hosted in April
Im happy to answer any questions you might have about the High-Level
MODERATOR: Great. Before we jump into the questions, just to tell callers
that [Senior State Department Official] is on a train, so we are hoping that
the line holds. And if you hear funky noise in the background, thats
what its about.
Tanya, why dont you go ahead.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question and answer session. If
you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1. To withdraw your
question, press * then 2. Once again, to ask a question, please press * then
1. One moment, please, for the first question.
Once again, to ask a question, please press * than 1. One moment please.
We do have a question from Bill Freebairn. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Thanks for holding the call. I was wondering whether
the U.S. is going to push or press for additional measures that go, perhaps,
beyond what the IAEA is saying about sort of voluntary peer reviews and suggest
something a little more mandatory and/or support strengthening of a emergency
response capacity, which IAEA has also talked about.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. The United States has always been
a strong supporter of the IAEAs peer review programs, both in conducting
regular missions in the United States and also urging other countries to
do the same. And we always send our senior experts, many of them in leadership
capacities, to represent the United States on missions in other countries.
Establishing a mandatory requirement for member-states to submit to regular
IAEA peer reviews would require the negotiation of a binding international
agreement among member-states that most likely would take several years to
come to fruition and no guarantee that all member-states would join in. And
thats why we settled on the voluntary peer review part of this. We
are very much open to exploring longer term approaches that could including
legally binding requirements, but in the meantime, we believe that these
are important voluntary peer reviews that can happen and that will add to
the data and the knowledge that we have and the kind of cooperation that
we think we need to have.
Bill, your second question was?
QUESTION: It was on the emergency response capacity. IAEA is talking about
regional centers, possibly for emergency response. So how does the U.S. support
that, and do they see the IAEA as the right organization to coordinate this?
MODERATOR: [Senior State Department Official], are you still on the line?
I wonder if we have lost her.
OPERATOR: I show her line as still connected.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hello?
MODERATOR: Hi. Did you hear the question, [Senior State Department Official]?
Do you need it again?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. No. I just --
MODERATOR: Okay. Go ahead.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I dropped off, Im now back.
MODERATOR: Okay. Good.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The after Fukushima, President Obama
ordered a comprehensive safety review of all 104 active power plants in the
United States almost a quarter of all nuclear reactors operating around
the world. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already completed its
near term inspections, and we believe that its important that because
you cannot take nuclear energy off the table, we must be able to assert that
these plants are safe and secure, which is why the United States continues
to reaffirm the importance of strengthening the IAEA. And we also are looking
forward to welcoming the IAEA action plan on nuclear safety in this meeting
tomorrow, which calls for states to request voluntary peer reviews on a regular
basis to facilitate transparency and improve standards of nuclear safety.
QUESTION: Yeah. But on the emergency response capability, theres been
talk about IAEA taking a strong role in putting together regional centers
that could respond quickly--
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
QUESTION: -- to an emergency.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. And we are looking for the opportunity
to support these efforts. We think that the regional approach is a smart
one because it provides for the fastest response and gives regions a sense
of empowerment, and we look forward to making sure that we can support these
issues and hearing more about them tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Youre welcome.
OPERATOR: Once again, if you would like to ask a question, please press *
then 1. At this time we have no further questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and thank you, [Senior State Department