Remarks by Frederick D. Barton, Representative to ECOSOC, at "Nuclear Power: History Revisited," a Chernobyl Commemoration Conference at UN Headquarters

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 26, 2011


As we pause to reflect on the events of April 26, 1986 at Chernobyl and consider the unfolding events at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, we are reminded that nuclear safety requires the global community to work together. This is why today the international community—as with Ukraine—stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Japanese government as we help the people of Japan to rebuild.

Since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, we’ve learned important lessons about nuclear safety and the impact of radiation on public health. And we have worked together to apply those lessons in U.S. assistance to Ukraine to upgrade nuclear safety in its civil nuclear power sector. As current events in Japan continue to unfold, the United States remains committed to placing a high priority on nuclear safety and to sharing information and new findings on the use of nuclear power.

As we renew our efforts to strengthen nuclear safety worldwide, we must examine lessons learned and consider how they can inform the present and future. In this regard, the United States, like many countries, is carrying out comprehensive risk and safety assessments of our existing nuclear installations. Moreover, it is necessary to consider safety assessments at every stage of a nuclear installation’s lifetime, and to promote the development and implementation of internationally accepted nuclear safety guidelines.

Nuclear accidents and their serious consequences underscore the vital importance of a comprehensive approach to nuclear safety, especially when designing and building new nuclear installations. We must continue to work towards developing a new generation of nuclear reactor designs with the most innovative safety features that enhance the ability to withstand a broad range of events, from power failures to natural disasters.

The United States also encourages countries embarking on nuclear energy programs to apply the relevant guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The establishment of an international safety culture—at both the operator and regulatory level—is a key step towards the safe and responsible operation of nuclear installations worldwide.

Finally, we underscore the importance of international cooperation on nuclear safety and support strengthening the relevant conventions, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Conventions on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency. Increased cooperation will improve transparency between countries and enhance our collective emergency response capability.

The United States is committed to facilitating the process of reaching the highest level of nuclear safety worldwide. Towards this end, the United States acknowledges and supports the IAEA’s essential role in promoting nuclear safety worldwide, and welcomes the IAEA Director General’s announcement to convene in June a high-level international conference on nuclear safety in Vienna.

Thank you.


PRN: 2011