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IAEA Director General Reviews Challenging Nuclear Agenda

DG Statement at the GC47

IAEA Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, addressing Delegates at the IAEA General Conference. (Credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

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In a statement to delegations of Member States meeting at the IAEA General Conference, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei reviewed major international nuclear issues facing the Agency and international community. "The past year has been a time of significant challenges and achievements," he said. "But much remains to be done."

He addressed issues related to:

  • Safeguards and Verification
  • Science and Technology
  • Safety and Security

Safeguards and Verification

Dr ElBaradei told the General Conference that strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime had become more important than ever. "Events of the past year have placed the regime under stress on multiple fronts, and have made it clear that concrete steps to strengthen the regime are urgently required. The Agency´s role as an independent, objective verification body remains central to the effectiveness of the regime," he said.

An immediate priority was the conclusion of comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols by all States that had made non-proliferation commitments. Forty-seven States were yet to fulfil their legal obligations to bring such safeguard agreements with the Agency into force and, over 150 countries still do not have an additional protocol (which grants the IAEA additional inspection authority) in force.

The Director General also addressed specific issues of nuclear safeguards and verification in:

Iran: "It was essential and urgent that all outstanding issues - particular those involving high enriched uranium - be brought to closure as soon as possible."

North Korea: "The situation continued to pose a serious and immediate challenge to the non-proliferation regime. I do hope that the dialogue will continue, and I trust that any future settlement will ensure the return of the DPRK to the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

Iraq: When the Agency ceased its verification activities in March 2003 "...we had found no evidence of the revival of nuclear activities prohibited under relevant Security Council resolutions." However, the time available was not sufficient to permit the Agency to complete its overall review and assessment, he said.

Through its inspections regime, the Agency was able to conclude that in 2002 - that with the exception of nuclear material in the DPRK - nuclear materials were being used for peaceful purposes in the 145 States with safeguards agreements in force.

Science and Technology

The Agency´s Technical Corporation (TC) programme continued to be a principal mechanism for implementing the Agency´s "Atoms for Peace" mission. Dr ElBaradei said a major part of the Agency´s technology activities focused on the transfer of nuclear technology for social and economic development. He cited examples such as:

  • Human Health where Agency support has increased the number of cancer patient receiving treatment in some Africa countries by around 35% over the past five years;
  • Water Management where more that 80 TC projects are using isotope hydrology to map underground aquifers, manage surface water and underground water, detect and control pollution, and monitor dam leakage and safety; and
  • Plant Mutation and Breeding where the IAEA is helping countries in the Asia Pacific region grow better quality rice with higher yields.

On the nuclear power front, it currently contributed to around 16% of world electricity production. "While nuclear power continues to hold great potential as a clean source of energy, it remains in a holding position due to a number of associated concerns," Dr ElBaradei said. In the coming year, the Agency will focus on a number of high priority issues related to nuclear power including:

  • Supporting innovative approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle;
  • Assisting Member States with energy planning assessments;
  • Promoting research, training and other forms of co-operation on waste management; and
  • Assisting Member States with their licence extension and decommissioning efforts.

Safety and Security

On the issue of safety and security, the Director General said it was gratifying to note that nuclear safety continued to improve at power plants worldwide. "More and more countries are raising their standards of performance in radiation protection, and significant steps have been taken in the past two years to improve nuclear security." However, the need for a more effective and transparent global nuclear safety and security regime continues to be a high priority, he said.

Agency efforts to help Member States increase their nuclear security and safety continue on multiple fronts. They include:

  • Development of legally binding international agreements and global safety standards;
  • Measures to prevent the theft of nuclear material and the sabotage of nuclear facilities; and
  • Measures to improve the security of radioactive material and to counter illicit trafficking.

Read the full text of the Director General´s statement.