Strenghtening Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Disaster Risk Preparedness 23.9.2011

Speech by H.E. Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Mr Chairman,

I would like to join the previous speakers who have already expressed their solidarity and sympathy to the people of Japan for the tragic accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and the resulting loss of human lives. The accident is a reminder of the vital importance of ensuring maximum nuclear safety in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear safety and nuclear security are global concerns. The initiative to convene this High-level Meeting is timely. 

The tragic accident in Fukushima underlines the need for an improved safety culture and regulation. It also demonstrates that regular audit and updating of safety and security measures are necessary on a continuous basis.

A more effective regime on nuclear liabilities is also worth considering. In the final analysis, the international legal framework on nuclear safety should be reviewed.

Finland has a long-standing nuclear power programme. The safety record is good and the performance figures are excellent.  However, in light of the Fukushima accident, we are taking another look at the safety of our nuclear power plants, in particular considering the prevailing circumstances and other possible scenarios that may unfold in our part of the world. Finland has the will and we have the responsibility to create the best possible safety conditions for the use of nuclear energy. Although the safe functioning of nuclear installations is a national responsibility and specific to each power company, international cooperation is of vital importance.

In countries using nuclear energy, legislation and responsibilities have to be clear and regulatory bodies need to be given required authority, independence in their decision making, competence and resources to fulfil their tasks. The safety and security of the nuclear sector as a whole requires continuous updating. The usage of nuclear energy in democratic societies requires the trust and consent of the people at all times.

The Fukushima accident reminded us, in particular, of the possibility of unpredicted extreme natural disasters that may lead to serious nuclear accidents. A thorough assessment of lessons learned is needed. We welcome the stress tests underway in many countries, focussing on the response preparedness to natural disasters and loss of power. In Finland, the national risk assessment was launched immediately after the accident. Preliminary results show that there are no immediate safety concerns regarding Finnish nuclear facilities. However, the assessment by the regulator, STUK, is still on-going together with European-wide stress tests. Safety improvements would be implemented should the results of the stress test identify any needs.

Finland fully subscribes to the Declaration by the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna on 20 June 2011. In particular, Finland would like to highlight the commitment to strengthen the central role of the IAEA in promoting cooperation and in coordinating international efforts to strengthen global nuclear safety, in providing expertise and advice in this field and in promoting nuclear safety and security culture worldwide.

The IAEA Action Plan called for in the Ministerial Declaration was presented by the Director General of the IAEA to the General Conference of the IAEA. We look forward to the adoption by the General Conference of the Action Plan, and strong support from all IAEA Member States to the effective, prompt and adequately resourced implementation of the Action Plan.

Nuclear accidents which respect no borders, also affect many sectors of society. This calls for a coordinated response locally but also at the global level. Many of the UN organisations can be involved in a number of ways to alleviate damage and coordinate responses to nuclear accidents. It is to be expected that the work initiated by the Secretary General on a system-wide basis on how the UN system can best manage the multitude of sectors relating to nuclear disaster risk preparedness and the results of this meeting will give ample guidance on the follow-up to the results of the study.

In conclusion, it is important as has been pointed out by the Secretary General that due attention is paid in the future work to the close interconnection between nuclear safety and security. Management of safety and security aspects may require different responses. Failing in one aspect can affect the other aspect as well. Therefore, synergies between them should be sought, where feasible.

Thank You Mr Chairman.