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IAEA General Conference Focuses on Nuclear Safety

IAEA General Conference

IAEA General Conference

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

At the opening of the 55th IAEA General Conference, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressed the participants and reviewed the IAEA's activities and achievements of the previous twelve months. In addition to the excerpts from his statement, the full text of his address can be accessed here.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident

"Since the last General Conference, the most important single item on the IAEA agenda has been the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nnuclear Power Plant in Japan. This caused deep public anxiety throughout the world and damaged confidence in nuclear power."

In June 2011, IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety adopted a Ministerial Declaration that formed the basis for the first ever IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was approved by consensus by the Board of Governors in the week prior to the General Conference and is now before the 55th General Conference for endorsement.

"Compared to the arrangements that were in place before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Action Plan represents a significant step forward in strengthening nuclear safety. (...) We will continue to send technical teams to Japan, as required. The most important thing now is to ensure transparency, build confidence, and meet the high expectations of the public. It is actions, not words, that count. Firm and sustained commitment from all Member States is needed for the full implementation of the Action Plan. New lessons will continue to be learned in the months and years ahead and the Action Plan will be updated accordingly. For our part, we are doing everything we can to prioritize and increase efficiency within our limited resources, but additional financial support for the Agency's nuclear safety activities will be necessary."

"Today, the Agency's assessment of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is that the reactors are essentially stable. The expectation is that the 'cold shutdown' of all the reactors will be achieved as planned. The IAEA will continue to provide every possible assistance to Japan. Continuing full transparency on Japan's part will also be important."

Nuclear Security

"Nuclear security remains an extremely important issue for all States. Last week, we marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In the wake of those attacks, the Agency significantly expanded its nuclear security programme to help States protect nuclear and other radioactive material and associated facilities against malicious acts."

"As the Nuclear Security Report 2011 shows, the number of States participating in our Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) programme continues to grow. It now stands at 113. In the year to June 2011, 172 incidents were reported to the ITDB. Fourteen involved activities such as unauthorized possession and/or attempts to sell or smuggle nuclear material or radioactive sources. Another 32 incidents involved the theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive material. Incidents of this nature demonstrate that security weaknesses continue to exist and must be addressed."

Nuclear Energy

"Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, there was speculation that the expansion in interest in nuclear power seen in recent years could come to an end. However, it is clear that there will, in fact, be continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power in the next two decades, although at a slower rate than in our previous projections. We expect the number of operating nuclear reactors in the world to increase by about 90 by 2030, in our low projection, or by around 350, in our high projection, from the current total of 432 reactors. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, such as China and India."

Nuclear Applications

"In the area of food and agriculture, one major success story deserves special mention: the eradication of the deadly cattle disease rinderpest. Rinderpest is, in fact, the first animal disease ever to be eliminated. This is a momentous achievement which is of enormous economic benefit to many developing countries. The net benefit to Africa alone is estimated at more than one billion US dollars per year. Together with the FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the African Union and other partners, the IAEA played an important part in eliminating this highly contagious viral disease. Our role included making available affordable diagnostic techniques and training veterinary staff."

Technical Cooperation

"New resources for the Technical Cooperation Programme as a whole rose to 127.7 million dollars in 2010 from 112.2 million dollars in 2009. Nuclear safety was the largest area of activity overall, followed by human health, and then food and agriculture. About 20 million dollars has so far been received under the Peaceful Uses Initiative, which was launched last year."

"Through the technical cooperation programme, Member States are addressing national development priorities in fields where nuclear techniques offer advantages over other approaches, or where nuclear techniques can usefully supplement conventional means. For example, TC projects help to combat child malnutrition, support breastfeeding programmes and address child mortality from preventable water-borne diseases."

Nuclear Verification

"Turning to nuclear verification, I am pleased to note that 110 countries now have additional protocols in force. This is very encouraging. The additional protocol is an essential tool for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance not only that declared nuclear material is not being diverted from peaceful uses, but also that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in a country."

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

"The DPRK's nuclear programme remains a matter of serious concern and recent reports about the construction of a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor in the DPRK are deeply troubling. I again call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, to come into full compliance with the NPT and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency. I wish to stress that the Agency has an essential role to play in verifying the DPRK's nuclear programme."

Application of IAEA Safeguards in Middle East

"You will recall that, in September 2000, the General Conference tasked the IAEA Director General to make arrangements to convene a forum in which participants from the Middle East and other interested parties could learn from the experience of nuclear-weapon-free zones already established in other regions. Consultations with Member States showed that conditions are favourable for the holding of such a forum, so I have invited all Member States to a forum, here in Vienna, on 21-22 November. I am pleased that the Permanent Representative of Norway, Ambassador Jan Petersen, has accepted my invitation to serve as Chairperson for this important gathering."

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-- By Peter Kaiser, IAEA Division of Public Information


(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA).