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9 September 2002 | Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors

Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Our agenda for this meeting includes topics related to all three pillars of Agency activities - technology, safety and verification. In this statement, I will primarily cover developments since the June Board. I will address these and other issues in greater detail in my statement to the General Conference next week.

APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP

At the outset, I welcome the application of the Republic of Seychelles for membership in the Agency, which is before the Board for approval.

NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY

In 2001, nuclear power supplied 16.2% of the world's electricity, up from 15.9% in 2000. In addition to two new nuclear plants in the Russian Federation and Japan, this increase was mainly due to the continuing improvements in plant availability resulting from effective management. Average availability in 2001 was 83.4%, an improvement equivalent to having 33 more 1000 MW(e) power plants than in 1990.

Nuclear power remains, however, mainly in a holding position. And while its environmental merits are increasingly recognized, concerns remain, principally about operational safety and waste disposal. The future of nuclear power continues to depend on sustaining a strong safety record, improving economic competitiveness, and demonstrating waste management solutions - in short, regaining public support.

Waste Management

In this respect I should note that important progress is being made in the area of waste management. In addition to the decision of the Finnish Parliament in May to ratify the Government's decision-in-principle to go forward with a deep disposal facility at a site near the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant - a decision I reported to the June Board - the selection of the Yucca Mountain site as a repository for high level waste and spent fuel in the United States of America has now received the approval of both the US President and the US Congress. Thus, by the end of the next decade it is likely that one or more repositories for disposal of high level waste and spent fuel will be in operation. As I have often stated, the most important step in gaining public confidence in this area will be to demonstrate that technologically and environmentally sound waste disposal solutions exist and are actually working.

Decommissioning

In the area of decommissioning, I should also note that the number of successfully completed projects is steadily increasing, together with confidence in the feasibility of safe decommissioning. The Agency continues to provide technical assistance to ongoing decommissioning projects in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, as well as making available relevant safety standards and technical guidance. Last month the Agency co-ordinated the arrangements for and verified the transport of fresh fuel from a research reactor at the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to Russia, the country of origin. This important security measure will be followed by decommissioning of the reactor.

Management of Nuclear Knowledge

In June, the Agency convened a meeting on Managing Nuclear Knowledge with experts from Member States - to compare notes on knowledge management issues, learn what Member States are doing and determine what more can be achieved through co-operative international efforts. This meeting came to the conclusion that to sustain the present level of deployment of nuclear technology (power and non-power alike) urgent action throughout the nuclear community is required. This action could include: facilitating the development of curricula for internationally accepted university degrees in key areas of nuclear science and technology; promoting better networking among academic institutions with nuclear education programmes; and integrating the Agency's existing nuclear databases in the form of an easily accessed "Nuclear Knowledge Portal" on the Internet. International co-operation will play an important role in promoting mutually supportive networking among governments, industry leaders and academic institutions in this area.

World Summit on Sustainable Development

As you are aware, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) took place over the past two weeks in Johannesburg. The Agency used this forum to draw awareness - through participation in panels, side events, and other interactions - to nuclear applications that contribute to many aspects of Agenda 21 and the goals of the Millennium Declaration, ranging from human health and agricultural productivity to water management, environmental cleanup and energy production. A side event on "Environmentally Friendly Control of Insect Pests," highlighting the use of the sterile insect technique for control and eradication of the tsetse fly and other insect pests, drew considerable interest. I should mention that one of the conclusions of the Summit emphasized the need to ensure capacity building and the transfer and use of modern technology as a prerequisite for development.

NUCLEAR, RADIATION, TRANSPORT AND WASTE SAFETY

Safety in nuclear activities around the globe remains a key factor for the future of nuclear technology. It is satisfying to note that nuclear safety continues to improve at power plants worldwide. Still, more work needs to be done, and public demands are widely voiced in many countries for greater transparency and accountability on safety issues. The need for a more effective and transparent international nuclear safety regime, therefore, continues to be a high priority.

Transport Safety

Many Member States continue to express concern over the risks involved in the transport of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive material. Work is continuing on refining the Agency's safety regulations in this area, and we have been working closely with and providing detailed input to the International Maritime Organization on the preparation of its emergency management schedules.

Transport Safety Appraisal Service (TranSAS) missions were carried out in Brazil and the United Kingdom in April and June 2002, respectively. A TranSAS mission will be carried out in Turkey early next year, and preliminary discussions are under way with Panamanian authorities for a possible TranSAS mission that would cover operations in the Panama Canal. It is important that Member States make use of this valuable service. Naturally the Agency will continue its efforts, in co-operation with all concerned, to enhance all aspects of transport safety.

Occupational Radiation Protection

Two weeks ago the Agency, working with the International Labour Organization (ILO), convened an international conference in Geneva on Occupational Radiation Protection - an event co-sponsored by many concerned international organizations. Since 1961 the Agency and the ILO have been working to establish international occupational radiation safety standards for the protection of workers. I am pleased to note that the conference found that radiation doses of workers have been dramatically reduced over the years, although continuing vigilance has been recommended.

Radiological Protection of Patients

Another issue of concern involves the radiological protection of patients. Accidents involving severe overexposure and in some cases fatalities, together with the concerns expressed in various forums, have prompted greater recognition of the need to address this issue. An Agency conference organized in Málaga in March 2001 called for the formulation of an action plan, which is now before the Board. This plan, developed in consultation with other relevant UN organizations and professional associations, recommends a range of activities that, if implemented, will assist Member States in their efforts to provide adequate patient protection.

VERIFICATION OF NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION

Status of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols

The Agency has redoubled its efforts in the past year to conclude safeguards agreements and additional protocols, using regional seminars and active engagement with Member State missions and governments. I am pleased to note that a comprehensive safeguards agreement with Yemen entered into force recently and one with Mali is before the Board for approval, as are additional protocols for Chile, Kiribati and Mali. Throughout the year, we have continued to make incremental progress; however, the number of safeguards agreements and additional protocols in force remains well below expectations. I would urge all States who have not done so to conclude and bring into force the required safeguards agreements and additional protocols at an early date. For the Agency to provide the required assurances, it must have the required authority.

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material

With regard to the effort to strengthen the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the group preparing a draft amendment to the Convention met again here in Vienna last week. I regret that, despite four meetings and agreement on the overall objective, there is still no final agreement on a text for the amendment. This is clearly very disappointing, given the importance that physical protection has acquired over the last year. Last Friday, the group adjourned its meeting until November. Therefore, a diplomatic conference of the Parties does not seem possible this year.

Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions Relating to Iraq

For nearly four years, the Agency has not been in a position to implement its mandate in Iraq under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 and related resolutions. Since December 1998 when our inspectors left Iraq, we have no additional information that can be directly linked without inspection to Iraq's nuclear activities. I should emphasize that it is only through resumption of inspections that the Agency can draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq's compliance with its obligations under these resolutions. In May and July of this year, I participated in two rounds of talks between the United Nations Secretary General and Iraq. I do hope that Iraq will be in a position soon to accept the return of inspectors and that the resumption of inspections will take place without delay. This is clearly in the interests of both the international community and Iraq itself. The Agency remains prepared to resume its verification activities in Iraq under the relevant Security Council resolutions at short notice.

Status of Safeguards Agreement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Since 1993, the Agency has been unable to implement fully its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Agency continues to be unable to verify the completeness and correctness of the DPRK's initial 1992 declaration - specifically, that the DPRK has declared all the nuclear material that is subject to Agency safeguards under its NPT safeguards agreement. Despite many rounds of technical discussions, no tangible progress has been made. In accordance with the Agreed Framework between the DPRK and the USA, however, the Agency since November 1994 has been monitoring the "freeze" of the DPRK's graphite moderated reactor and related facilities.

As I have made well known for a number of years now, our estimation is that the work required to verify the correctness and completeness of the DPRK's initial declaration could take about three to four years, assuming full co-operation by the DPRK. This verification work is a basic obligation under the DPRK's safeguards agreement, as well as a prerequisite for the delivery of key nuclear components under the Agreed Framework. The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) has informed the Agency that it has provided the DPRK with a construction schedule for the light water reactor project, according to which the delivery of the key nuclear components for the first reactor would occur by 2005. Further delays in the start of the Agency's activities to verify the completeness and correctness of the initial DPRK declaration could lead therefore to a delay in the KEDO project. I would hope that the DPRK would agree to the initiation of this long overdue verification process without further delay, and to that end start soon the necessary dialogue with the Agency on this and other issues.

Application of Agency Safeguards in the Middle East

Pursuant to the mandate given to me by the General Conference, I have continued to consult with the States of the Middle East region on the application of full scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, and the development of model agreements that would contribute to the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in that region. Once again, I regret to report that I have not been in a position to make progress in the implementation of this important mandate, particularly in light of the prevailing situation in the Middle East. As before, I will continue to exert every effort within my authority and, I trust, with the co-operation of all concerned, to move this mandate forward.

MANAGEMENT OF THE AGENCY

Agency Funding

More than 30 Member States remain in arrears in amounts equal to or in excess of their regular budget contribution for at least two years. Since 1998, the Agency has offered Member States measures under which their arrears are consolidated and made payable in annual installments over a number of years, to facilitate the payment of their regular budget contributions. The results to date have been disappointing. Only two members - Belarus and Kazakhstan - have made use of payment plan agreements. I would urge all States to take the necessary action to pay their financial obligations in full and on time. This is a collective responsibility that all have to shoulder.

I should mention here that a policy of zero real growth for fifteen years, despite steadily growing responsibilities, has resulted in highly inadequate levels of financing for many high priority activities. A primary example is in the safeguards area, where the Agency's legal obligations can no longer be met within the existing level of funding. As I mentioned a year ago, with the chronic and corrosive degree of underfunding of this programme, we are coming close to being unable to provide credible safeguards. For us to fulfil our many statutory and other legal obligations and high priorities, in all our areas of activity, while continuing to maintain appropriate balance between development and other statutory activities, an increase in the level of resources for the next biennium is inescapable.

Financing of Technical Co-operation

Regarding financing of the technical co-operation (TC) programme, I trust that the Board will recommend to the General Conference the approval of the agreement reached on a new TC Fund target of $74.75 million for 2003 and 2004, an increase of $1.75 million over our target for this year. The Secretariat circulated in advance informal advice to all Member States on their requested pledge amounts. The late timing of the agreement should therefore be no impediment to Member States making their pledges at the General Conference next week.

I would also note that we still have a long way to go to achieve this year's rate of attainment of 85%. At the moment, the rate of attainment stands at 57%. I would like to thank those developing and developed countries that have paid their share and, in particular, those such as the Republic of Korea and Germany that have increased their pledges significantly this year in comparison with previous years. I would like to encourage all other countries to do their part to reach this year's target, and to plan ahead for next year's rate of 90%.

I should also draw your attention to the assessed programme costs (APCs) that are charged to recipient countries at the rate of 8% of their TC programme disbursements for the previous year. While many countries meet their APC obligations regularly, many still do not pay in full and currently 55 Member States do not pay at all. This is obviously unsupportable. As with regular budget contributions, the Agency has developed payment plans in the TC area to support countries wishing to pay their APC arrears. While to date only one State - Tunisia - is participating in such a payment plan, a number of other States (including Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Kuwait and Venezuela) have begun in recent years to make substantial payments of their APCs and contributions to the TC Fund. This is a positive start which I hope, would be followed by others.

Survey of Best Prevailing Conditions of Employment for General Service Staff

In keeping with the approved schedule, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) in April 2002 carried out a survey of best prevailing conditions for employment in Vienna. The survey results are presented in GOV/2002/43. The last such survey was carried out in 1996, with interim salary adjustments made annually as appropriate since that time. Based on the latest survey findings, the ICSC has recommended a new salary scale for Vienna based General Service staff. The recommended scale represents an average increase of 2.98% over the salaries in effect in April 2001. I recommend that the Board of Governors approve the new salary scale. If approved, I will set the date of implementation after consultation with the other Vienna based United Nations organizations.