Rodrigo Alvarez, FLACSO Chile. Interview with CNN Chile [English Translation]. Santiago 


2nd May, 2009

CNN: We are back to inform you that Latin America remains a nuclear weapons free zone as every country of this region re-affirmed in 2003 its agreement with the Tlatelolco Treaty, which specifically prohibits nuclear weapons.

Today, we have an important guest with us, as a meeting of the International Commission for Non- proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament is being held in Santiago de Chile. Here with us is Rodrigo Alvarez, who is not only the host of this meeting but also an international analyst. Rodrigo, thank you for coming. Tell us something about the subject of this meeting and its targets.

R. Alvarez: Verónica, good evening, thank you for inviting us. This meeting is related to what is known as the International Commission for Non-proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament. This Commission was created in 2008 and is an initiative of the Australian Government with the support of the Japanese Government. Starting with this perspective they began working specifically on the subject of non- proliferation and disarmament in a more global sense, and specifically on how to make more progress on article 6 of the NPT, which calls for the end of nuclear weapons.

CNN: Rodrigo, How can it be explained that it is in Santiago de Chile, and our region in general, Latin America, where this subject is being discussed if, as we were saying before, this is not an area known to have a problem with the management of nuclear energy or weaponry?

R. Alvarez: Precisely, what drew the Commission's attention and what they are most interested in is being able to listen to and learn about our region. As you pointed out previously, many countries of our region - besides the Tlatelolco Treaty - have already signed and are party to,- the Antarctic Treaty which is previous to the Tlatelolco Treaty. Effectively, the region is a nuclear-weapon-free-zone and because of this reason, it serves as an example to be followed. And like the Tlatelolco Treaty, for instance, which is now hoped to be replicated or, at least, to be learnt from, there are different treaties heading in the same direction as Pelindaba, Semipalatinsk and others.

CNN: Rodrigo, are there in this meeting countries that manage nuclear energy? Are there different voices? Because there will always be voices saying that maybe along with nuclear energy, the weapons can also be positive, they can be useful, while others say that it is not. Are there any exchanges of ideas regarding this matter?

R. Alvarez: I would say that the most important aspect of this meeting is the fact that it occurs in a very special context: specifically the context of the last call from President Barack Obama regarding the total elimination of nuclear weapons. So, what the Commission is trying to do is to reinforce the most important principles of the meeting that will be held in 2010 on the NPT which, as you know, comes from 1970 and has had many different outcomes. There have been a number of successful results but others have been a failure, and this is the problem. Such failure characterised the last meeting in 2005 where there were no agreements achieved and there was no advancement on the essential issues. These months before the 2010 NPT Conference are therefore hugely important because if there is another failure, the truth is that it would raise questions. The world will have to deeply consider how to re-articulate, to reshape itself, in order to make progress towards the final goal, which is a total departure or complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

CNN: When someone hears or is told about the concept of nuclear energy, people get very suspicious or have some fears of the nuclear element. Is it possible to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without generating this fear that many people have of this concept?

R. Alvarez: Of course. What really happens, and certainly in this region, our region of Latin America and the Caribbean, is that the only use that could be given to the nuclear material is for energy, and this is one of the most important points on which the different countries are working on. Besides Brazil and Argentina that already have facilities and Mexico that also has a couple of facilities too, there is also interest from other countries such as Chile, Venezuela and Peru. So, what we have today is indeed what we are analyzing: the expansion of peaceful nuclear energy. This concept is very interesting because it brings a series of other responsibilities that obviously relate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the entity that must watch for the fulfillment of safeguards and the use of the technology and its development, and the standards for the disposal of the waste produced by this energy.

CNN: Should this be an instance that encourages the authorities to talk about this issue? I'm asking this because, in general, and especially in an election year, apparently all candidates to any position are avoiding this subject because they know that is going to bring consequences that will not please everybody… So, should this be an occasion where the authorities, presidential candidates for instance, talk seriously about this subject?

R. Alvarez: Until now, I have only seen one of the candidates at least make reference to the need for seriously studying the subject. This is apart from the Zanelli report, which was commissioned by President Michelle Bachelet. Also, Frei has shown interest in studying the subject.

CNN: … (Inaudible) … So, there is a minute in which someone has to say "who is going to put the bell on the cat" and the subject is addressed seriously, with the pros and cons.

R. Alvarez: Indeed. The problem is, as you well want to demonstrate, that this is not a decision that will be made today and solved tomorrow. In fact, studies show that you need fifteen years from when the decision is made to when the project is completed. I would say yes, there are political costs that need to be solved like the environment and those groups that are against the development of this kind of energy. Nonetheless, if we pay attention to the energy problems our country is facing now and will continue to face increasingly every year, and with more incidences in its growing and developing capacities, then this is an issue that we cannot avoid. We need to advance and see how we are going to solve it, and whether or not we will turn nuclear energy.

CNN: Rodrigo, we want to thank your presence in the CNN Chile studios. Thank you very much.

[ Ends ]

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