Nuclear Energy, Not Nukes, Not North Korea

29 Nov

Hans Blix is evidently suffering from North Korea fatigue. The March 2012 Seoul summit he is leading will not be about North Korea. Clear?

By holding regular meetings with heads of state, the participating countries pressure themselves into keeping track and securing all dangerous material that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Also, countries will also discuss safety of nuclear materials and plants, a topic that has become more important in the wake of the Japan tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

Mr. Blix said one aim of the March conference will be “to restore confidence in nuclear power.” “I am as much in favor of nuclear power as I am against nuclear weapons,” he said.

One way to build confidence, he said, is for the nuclear community to develop more understandable terms for describing the dangers of radiation. For the Fukushima incident, officials have used different measurements to describe how much radiation escaped, sometimes forcing the public and media to scramble for reference materials to draw comparisons.

“We need to find a language where we don’t talk about becquerels and millirems. Perhaps ‘background’ is more understandable,” Mr. Blix said. “Most people know that we all have background radiation and we all are radioactive ourselves. I think it’s easier to understand was this twice background or a hundred times background. The nuclear community needs to sharpen itself here.”

Another new area of concern that has emerged since the Washington meeting, Mr. Blix said, was computer hacking of systems at nuclear power plants and other facilities. Iran last year said that the opening of its Bushehr nuclear plant was disrupted when its computers came under attack from the Stuxnet computer worm reportedly developed in Israel and the U.S.

“I think they need a discussion and cooperation about how to protect nuclear installations against viral diseases that are implanted by terrorists or by states,” Mr. Blix said.

Apparently, Gareth Evans didn’t get the memo.

“North Korea should be invited and will be welcomed,” Gareth Evans said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in downtown Seoul, after participating in the first meeting of the Eminent Persons Group formed to prepare for a successful hosting of March’s nuclear summit that will bring together U.S. President Barack Obama and other global leaders.

“The door should always be opened to them, though their participation is unlikely as the North will not want to be seen to be under the international pressure before its April celebration,” he said, citing the birthday of North’s late founder, Kim Il-sung, on April 15.

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