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Board Completes Discussions on Safety, Technology, Verification

Vienna Talks Conclude with Iran Verification Issue

Milenko E. Skoknic

Chair of the Board Milenko E. Skoknic (right) presiding over the March Board meeting, the 1200th such meeting in the Board´s history. At left, IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA Board of Governors concluded three days of deliberations this week on a variety of nuclear topics relevant to the Agency and its Member States, focusing primarily on the IAEA´s activities related to nuclear science, technology, and safety.

After Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the Board, the bulk of the Monday and Tuesday sessions were spent examining the forthcoming Nuclear Safety Review and Nuclear Technology Review reports. Both documents, currently in draft form, comprise comprehensive reports that are assembled from comments provided by Member States along with input from the Agency. The documents will be finalized and released later this year.

Several conclusions were drawn regarding the strengthening of cooperation in nuclear safety and waste management. While the Board noted a high level of nuclear safety had been observed globally, the need to "avoid complacency in the nuclear industry" was noted. Further, the IAEA stressed the need for a clear separation between those who promote nuclear power and those responsible for maintaining safety, since "safety could otherwise be undermined."

Board members commended the Agency for its efforts to reduce risk associated with nuclear power, noting the IAEA´s work in applying safety standards, promoting safety Conventions, and the recent establishment of the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS). IRRS will assist Member States to improve their regulatory and legislative infrastructures and harmonize regulatory approaches in several phases of nuclear or radiological applications.

On the topic of nuclear science and technology, the discussion touched upon several issues pertaining to the Agency´s efforts to reinforce its work with Member States. In particular, Board members emphasized the "importance of human resources development through nuclear education and training," and called on the Agency to further its work in the area. While members cited the importance of nuclear power as a possible method to meet growing global energy needs, they also raised concerns over rising uranium prices and called on the IAEA to examine issues related to its mining. Other topics of note were multilateral fuel initiatives, new advances with regards to reactor development, and the Agency´s food and agriculture activities.

Many Board members expressed concern over possible termination of the FAO/IAEA partnership, urging the "retention and strengthening of the current partnership" while crediting its "positive results in the fields of crop enhancement, pest control and food and environmental protection."

The Board continued its talks with discussions on nuclear verification, and authorized the Director General to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol agreement with Swaziland.

On the issue of safeguards application in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Chairman Milenko E. Skoknic noted the Board´s emphasis on "the importance of continued dialogue to achieving a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue and early denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

The implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards agreement and relevant provisions of UN Security Council resolutions with regards to Iran was then brought up for consideration, with Member States noting the Director General´s report in that regard. In his concluding notes, Chairman Skoknic emphasized the "continued need for negotiation and dialogue among all parties involved covering all relevant issues" as necessary to achieve a long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. The Board also requested that Dr. ElBaradei continue to inform it of additional developments on the issue.

The three-day meeting was held in Vienna from 3-5 March 2008. Incidentally, the talks marked the 1200th meeting of the Board of Governors.

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