For nearly half a century, non-proliferation treaties and other multinational collaborations have helped facilitate the safe expansion of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But some wonder whether the benefits of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” are worth the increased risks of the technology and potentially dangerous materials being used as weapons by terrorists, recalcitrant governments, and other groups that care little for the benefits of international cooperation.
AREVA CEO Anne Lauvergeon addressed these concerns in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s 2009 Conference on Nonproliferation in Washington, D.C.
Lauvergeon noted that while governments bear primary responsibility for effectively preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, the nuclear industry can and must play a critical role as well.
“We have entered a world where nuclear industry is not to be seen as part of the problem, as it could have in the past, nor as a passive actor, but as an active part of the solution,” she said.
Citing corporate policies such as AREVA’s own Values Charter, which mandates working only with customers from countries that conform to international nonproliferation norms and obligations, and the emergence of reprocessing protocols that limit access to used fuel, Lauvergeon called the international growth of nuclear energy, “a unique opportunity to promote an enhanced culture of nonproliferation.”
The key, she explained, is to promote initiatives such as an international fuel bank that would help developing nations rectify their acute energy imbalances, and a well-functioning, closed fuel cycle market that would provide enrichment and used fuel recycling services at competitive prices. Such measures, she said, would minimize any incentive for non-nuclear countries to acquire fuel recycling and enrichment facilities of their own.
Noting how AREVA has already treated more than 20,000 tons of used fuel from seven countries, “The experience shows that, under the right framework, treatment and recycling are a very good option,” said Lauvergeon.
In closing, Mme. Lauvergeon said that the ongoing nuclear renaissance offers the world “a tremendous opportunity to meeting the energy, economic and environmental needs of both developed and developing countries, for the lifetime of our children and beyond. This, without increasing the risk of nuclear weapons.”
A transcript and video of the Conference are available here.