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(Yonhap Interview) Netherlands seeks stronger IAEA role in ensuring nuclear safety

All Headlines 05:30 March 07, 2012

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Wednesday the United Nations nuclear watchdog must spearhead improvements of atomic safety and security with a stronger role, calling for "coherence and synergy" between the two issues to better prevent nuclear crises.

In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, calls have grown for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out more stringent inspections and for better cooperation and crisis management among nuclear regulators around the world.

The question of how to strengthen global atomic safety following Japan's nuclear crisis will be a key topic at the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, with more than 50 world leaders scheduled to attend.

"We want to strengthen the IAEA's role, especially in promoting coherence and synergy between nuclear safety and security," Rutte said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency, less than three weeks before taking part in the summit.

"The IAEA can help translate the Nuclear Security Summit action plans into specific global guidelines," the prime minister said. "The Netherlands seeks to have the summit take action on as many specific points as possible."

The vulnerability of nuclear power plants was highlighted when a severe earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan last March, leaving more than 19,000 people dead and triggering the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant.

The disaster also illustrated the extent of damage that could be caused in the event of a successful terrorist attack against a nuclear power plant.

South Korea is making stringent preparations for the upcoming summit, the largest international meeting it has hosted. U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the inaugural summit in 2010 to bolster international safeguards and prevent nuclear terrorism.

"The second summit is significant because it is keeping the issues of nuclear security and the fight against nuclear terrorism and trafficking high on the political agenda," Rutte said.

Since the first summit, there have been a number of agreements among participating nations and international organizations on nuclear and radiological security.

"To be as effective and efficient as possible, we need to harmonize and consolidate these agreements," Rutte said.

"This will be a major task for the Nuclear Security Summit in the coming years," he said. "We would like the IAEA to see that this process goes smoothly."

Seoul officials said the Netherlands has agreed to host the third Nuclear Security Summit in 2014. At the Seoul summit, South Korea is expected to formally name the Netherlands as the next host.

Rutte declined to confirm whether his country will be named.

"The decision on who will host the Nuclear Security Summit in 2014 will be taken by the political leaders in Seoul," he said. "The next host will work closely together with Nuclear Security Summit states and the IAEA to shape the summit's agenda."

After the Seoul summit, Rutte said he will meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on March 29 to seek ways enhance cooperation between the two nations.

In seeking possible ways to reduce nuclear stockpiles in the civilian sector, there is global debate about replacing highly-enriched uranium used in medical radio isotopes or research-related nuclear reactor facilities with low-enriched uranium.

As a leading producer of nuclear pharmaceutical products, Rutte said, the Netherlands, "is now making agreements that will make it possible in the foreseeable future to replace highly enriched uranium, which involves a risk of proliferation, with low-enriched uranium."

"It goes without saying that we're making sure that this transition will never harm the interests of patients around the world," he said.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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