Nuclear diplomacy

25 October 2010

Nuclear energy has been a topic under discussion in recent days for diplomats from Russia, Armenia, France, Libya, and India, Vietnam and Japan, with declarations and intentions announced but few commitments made.

Sargysan and Levitin (Russian Transport Ministry) 
Armenian prime minister Tigran Sargysan and Russian transport minister Igor Levitin at the Yekaterinburg talks (Image: Russian Transport Ministry) 
The latest round of meetings of a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission saw the adoption of a new protocol on cooperation on the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia. The Russian delegation was represented at the Yekaterinburg meeting by transport minister Igor Levitin, with prime minister Tigran Sargysan heading the Armenian delegation.


Armenia relies heavily on natural gas as its main source of primary energy, but its single operating nuclear unit, at Metsamor, supplies a large tranche of its electricity (nearly 40% in 2008). The current unit is scheduled for closure in 2018, and Armenia is looking to replace its capacity. The latest protocol follows on from an agreement signed by the two countries in August 2010 that would see Russia build at least one VVER-1000 reactor in Armenia, with construction scheduled to commence in 2012.
France and Libya declare intent 


Meanwhile, France and Libya are reported to have signed a 'declaration of intent' to establish a strategic partnership covering various fields including the construction of a nuclear power plant in Libya. According to the Tripoli Post, the partnership, signed during a visit by French industry minister Christian Estrosi to Libya, provides for bilateral talks prior to the signing of an accord between French and Libyan nuclear agencies.
Libya has a 10 MWt research reactor, and the Libyan Atomic Energy Institute was earlier this year reported to be preparing a nuclear law as part of the institutional infrastructure for setting up nuclear power plants. The country voluntarily halted a clandestine uranium enrichment program and opened itself up to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards inspections in 2003. It already has several agreements in place with France, including an agreement on peaceful uses of atomic energy and a memorandum of understanding related to building a mid-sized nuclear plant for seawater desalination.
Japan and Vietnam agree to agree 

Japan and Vietnam are reported to have agreed on a basic bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which would open the way for Japan to export nuclear energy technologies to Vietnam.
Citing chief cabinet secretary Yoshito Sengoku, the Kyodo News reported that the two countries are planning "an early conclusion of a treaty to set the legal framework over the peaceful use and transfer of nuclear power-related technologies, materials and equipment." The agreement is expected to be confirmed during bilateral talks in Hanoi at the end of October.
Vietnam is planning to start building its first two-unit nuclear power plant in 2014. Russian, American, French and Chinese companies have already been involved in discussion about supplying the country's first nuclear power plants, with interest also expressed from South Korea.
Meanwhile, press speculation surrounds the likelihood – or not – of the conclusion of a nuclear trade agreement between Japan and India during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's current visit to Japan. According to reports in AFP, Singh had departed for Tokyo saying he was "confident" that a civilian deal between the two countries could be concluded during the trip, although the prime minister's official statement in advance of his departure made no specific reference to nuclear power.


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News