IAEA Director General Reviews Priorities

IAEA General Conference

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

At the opening of the 56th 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 below, the full text of his address can be accessed here.

Technical Cooperation

"The IAEA is in a unique position within the UN system. We are the only organization with expertise in nuclear technologies and we help our Member States gain access to those technologies. Our specialist laboratories support our activities, developing innovative technology and providing training. We work closely with recipient countries and with partners such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and UNESCO."

"When I visit Member States, I always try to see IAEA projects in action. The people I meet - scientists and scholars, farmers and fishermen - express great appreciation for the work of the Agency. It is touching to see how much impact our work can have on individual lives. When I see the distinctive blue IAEA logo at the project sites, I feel as if I am among family."

Cancer Control

"Cancer in developing countries is high on the Agency's agenda. It is also my passion. I plan to strengthen our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT). I wish to establish a Cancer Training Centre at our laboratory complex in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, within the next few years. This will provide specialist training for health professionals from Member States, using advanced teaching technologies to complement the existing training offered by the IAEA Dosimetry Laboratory."

Nuclear Power

"Nuclear power remains the best known peaceful application of nuclear energy. When I became Director General three years ago, the talk was of a nuclear renaissance. Then the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, raising fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy throughout the world."

"Eighteen months after the accident, it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries. Our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years."

"Most of the new nuclear power reactors which are planned or under construction are in Asia. Established users such as China, India, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation plan significant expansions of their nuclear power programmes. Developing countries continue to show keen interest in nuclear power. Vietnam and Bangladesh are among those with advanced plans to build their first power reactors."

"The most important lesson that we have learned from Fukushima Daiichi is that we need a much more intense focus on nuclear safety. But nuclear energy offers many benefits. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive. It also has important non-electric applications such as seawater desalination, district heating and heat for industrial processes. The Agency is committed to supporting the development of new and emerging applications in these areas."

Managing Radioactive Waste

"The safe management and disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel remain key issues. The Agency works closely with Member States in this area. The nuclear industry has been managing interim waste disposal successfully for more than half a century. But no long-term disposal facility has so far become operational for nuclear spent fuel. This is often due to difficulties involving public acceptance."

"Nevertheless, good progress has been made in a number of countries, including Finland, Sweden and France. Last month, I had an opportunity to visit the ONKALO facility in Finland, where a repository for the final disposal of spent fuel is being built deep underground. It is an impressive site. We expect the first deep geological repositories for nuclear spent fuel to become operational after 2020. The progress that is being made in this area deserves to be better known."

Nuclear Safety

"At the last General Conference, the Fukushima Daiichi accident was uppermost in all our minds. The Agency provided practical assistance to Japan and shared information, openly and transparently, with governments and the public."

"We are now well into the post-accident phase. The focus is on implementing the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety which the last General Conference endorsed. Progress has been made in many areas. Let me highlight one example. One of the key problems at Fukushima Daiichi was the loss of all electrical power as backup generators were disabled by the tsunami. After the accident, securing alternative reliable electricity supply during a prolonged blackout was recognized as an area requiring swift action by plant operators around the world."

"We have expanded the content of IAEA expert peer review services to Member States to include the first lessons learned from the accident. Peer reviews involve assessments of plant safety, regulatory effectiveness or emergency preparedness and response. Possible safety weak points at nuclear power plants have been identified and are being addressed."

"We undertook a systematic review of IAEA Safety Standards, taking into account lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. We took a self-critical look at our own response to the accident and identified areas where we could have done better, including in communication. We launched a series of international expert meetings focussing on different technical issues. And we have continued to support our Member States in their efforts to enhance the international nuclear safety legal framework."

"In December, the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, organized by the Government of Japan and the IAEA, will take place in Fukushima Prefecture. At this Conference, we will present a report outlining the conclusions of the international expert meetings held so far. We will also prepare a comprehensive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, to be finalized in 2014."

"Nuclear safety remains the primary responsibility of individual countries. However, governments have recognized that effective international cooperation is vitally important and that the IAEA has a unique role to play in this regard. It is essential that the Nuclear Safety Action Plan is implemented in full. We must never become complacent. The ultimate goal is to make nuclear power as safe as humanly possible everywhere and to restore public confidence."

Nuclear Security

"In the last few years, world leaders have given considerable attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism. They have recognized the Agency's central role as the global platform for strengthening nuclear security. We have unique technical competence in this field. We will significantly expand our nuclear security activities in the coming years."

"The IAEA has trained over 12 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security in the last decade. We provided assistance at high-profile events such as the UEFA European Football Championships. Considerable amounts of high enriched uranium have been put into more secure storage. Our Illicit Trafficking Database keeps track of thefts or other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials."

"Despite the enhanced global interest in nuclear security, there is still one important item of unfinished business: ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The Amendment was agreed in 2005 but it has still not entered into force. Entry into force of the Amendment would make an important difference to global nuclear security."

"Nuclear security is a priority for the Agency. We are carefully examining ways of maximizing the synergy between nuclear security and nuclear safety. I plan to strengthen our Office of Nuclear Security in the near future. In July 2013, the Agency will organize a high-level International Conference on Nuclear Security."

Nuclear Verification: Iran

"In the case of Iran, I have presented the situation with the utmost clarity since 2010. The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Therefore, we cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

"Last November, I reported to the Board that the Agency had credible information indicating that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. I requested Iran to clarify these issues."

"Based on the Board of Governors resolution adopted in November 2011, dialogue has been intensified between the IAEA and Iran. However, as I stated in my latest report, no concrete results have been achieved since November 2011."

"Last Thursday, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution urging Iran to comply, fully and without delay, with all of its obligations under the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and to meet the requirements of the Board."

"The Agency is firmly committed to intensifying dialogue. We will continue negotiations with Iran on a structured approach to resolving all outstanding issues. I hope we can reach agreement without further delay, to be followed by immediate implementation."

Nuclear Verification: DPRK

"I remain seriously concerned about the nuclear programme of the DPRK. Its statements about uranium enrichment activities and the construction of a light water reactor are deeply troubling. As you are aware, the Agency has not been able to implement any safeguards in the country since April 2009. I call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, and with the NPT, and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency."

Nuclear Verification: Syria

"In the case of Syria, you will recall that, in May 2011, I reported that it was very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency. I reiterate my request to Syria to hold further discussions with the Agency to address all outstanding questions related to Dair Alzour and other locations."

Last update: 3 November 2014