IAEA Director General Defines Priorities and Reviews Year’s Highlights in Statement to the General Conference

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano highlighted the importance of science and technology for development in his opening statement to the IAEA’s 59th General Conference in Vienna today.

“The Agency has so much to offer in this area that I often summarise our work as Atoms for Peace and Development,” Mr Amano said. “We make peaceful nuclear technology available to improve the welfare and prosperity of the people of the world.”

Several hundred high ranking government representatives from the IAEA’s 165 Member States have gathered this week for the General Conference, the IAEA’s annual meeting, to discuss the programme and activities of the Agency for the coming year and to approve its budget. The delegates — including several ministers — will also consider a range of topics on the peaceful development of nuclear technologies, and attend the 2015 IAEA Scientific Forum on Atoms in Industry.  Several dozen exhibits and side events are scheduled from 14 to 18 September 2015.

After welcoming Guyana, the Republic of Djibouti and Vanuatu as newest Member States of the IAEA, Mr Amano pointed out the clear links between the work of the IAEA and the 17 new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to be adopted by governments in New York next week. “Areas covered by both include energy, food security and nutrition, human health and environmental protection, as well as the management of water resources,” Mr Amano said. “I very much welcome the fact that there is explicit recognition in the new development goals of the importance of science and technology in advancing development.”

Mr Amano noted that the IAEA continued to demonstrate its ability to respond quickly to crises.

“Since the dreadful earthquake in Nepal in April, the Agency has been helping the authorities to test the safety of critical buildings such as hospitals and schools, using non-destructive testing techniques, including radiography,” Mr Amano said.

“Following the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, we provided equipment and diagnostic kits for the rapid identification of the virus,” he added.  “We have since worked with countries of the region to help them build or strengthen their capacity to respond to possible future outbreaks of Ebola and other deadly diseases which can be transmitted from animals to people.”

ReNuAL project

Through training, research support, and analytical services, the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf provide almost all IAEA Member States with support.  Mr Amano drew attention to the ongoing renovation of these laboratories through the ReNuAL project.

“ReNuAL is a very important project,” he said. “The laboratories are the engine of much of the technical support which we provide to Member States.” He called on all Member States in a position to do so to contribute generously and ensure that the IAEA can continue to offer high-quality scientific support to all countries.

Nuclear power and climate change

Nuclear power is one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide among energy sources when emissions through entire life cycles are considered, Mr Amano said. “Nuclear power has low environmental impact and leads to significant avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions. I believe that appropriate consideration should be given to nuclear power in talks on climate change mitigation which are taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Assurance of supply

In his statement, Mr Amano referred to the signing of a Host State Agreement last month and a related technical agreement with Kazakhstan to establish an IAEA Bank of low enriched uranium (LEU) in that country.

Describing  this as a significant step forward, Mr Amano explained that the IAEA LEU Bank is a mechanism to provide confidence to countries that they will be able to obtain LEU to make  fuel for nuclear power plants in case  of an unforeseen disruption to their supplies that cannot be remedied by commercial means.

Nuclear safety and security

Mr Amano informed delegates that his Report on the Fukushima Daiichi Accident had been published, along with five technical volumes. “I believe that this IAEA report will provide a solid knowledge base for the future and will help to improve nuclear safety throughout the world.”

The fourth and final annual report on the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety shows that progress continues to be made in improving global nuclear safety. Activities highlighted under the Action Plan will continue to be addressed through the regular work of the Agency.

 Mr Amano also referred to the IAEA Nuclear Security Report 2015 which provides an update on the assistance the Agency provides to countries in strengthening their national nuclear security systems.

He called on all countries that have not yet done so to adhere to the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The Amendment has moved closer to entry into force, but adherence by 14 countries is still necessary.

Entry into force would reduce the likelihood of terrorists being able to detonate a dirty bomb in a major city, Mr Amano said.  It would also reduce the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant that could result in a release of radioactivity.

Nuclear verification

Turning to nuclear verification, Mr Amano said the Agency remained unable to undertake verification in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and its knowledge of the country’s nuclear programme was limited. “I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations, to cooperate promptly with the Agency, and to resolve all outstanding issues, including those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country,” he added.

Regarding Iran, Mr Amano said the IAEA’s Board of Governors had authorized him to undertake the verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed by the E3/EU+3 countries and Iran.

Iran will implement the Additional Protocol, as stated in the JCPOA, and this will give the Agency greater access to information and to sites in Iran.  Iran has also agreed under the JCPOA to implement additional transparency measures, which will help the Agency to have a better understanding of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mr Amano said that, in the coming years, the costs of the IAEA’s work in monitoring and verifying Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA will need to be met, both through the regular budget and extrabudgetary contributions.

As agreed in the Road-map between Iran and the Agency on Past and Present Outstanding Issues Iran had provided  explanations in writing, and related documents, for the clarification of the outstanding issues. “We reviewed this information and submitted our questions to Iran last week,” Mr Amano said.