17 March 2003 | 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 covers a broad range of issues, once again touching on all three Agency pillars - technology, safety and verification. I will discuss a number of topics related to each of these pillars, as well as a number of management issues.
Let me begin by welcoming Honduras as a Member State, bringing the Agency's membership to 135 States.
You have before you the 2003 update of the Nuclear Technology Review. Worldwide, the number of operating nuclear power plants stands at 441, with 6 new plants connected to the grid in 2002 - in China, the Republic of Korea and the Czech Republic. Nuclear energy continues to provide just over 16% of the world's electricity supply. The current modest expansion of nuclear power is centred in Asia - including 20 of the 33 reactors now under construction.
Nuclear power is currently in a 'holding position'. Some States continue to either reject or express doubt about its role because of concerns related to operational safety, waste management and economic competitiveness. Many States on the other hand continue to voice their support for the nuclear option as a clean, economical and sustainable source of energy - and some of them, such as the United States of America and the Russian Federation, have already approved licence extensions for some of their operating power plants.
Advanced Reactor and Fuel Cycle Designs
But as I have frequently stated, any major future expansion in the use of nuclear power will depend to a large extent on continued innovation in reactor and fuel cycle technology - innovation focused on maximizing the benefits of nuclear power while minimizing the associated concerns. In this regard, the Agency's International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) has completed the definition of user requirements related to economics, safety, proliferation resistance and the environment, as well as cross-cutting issues such as the legal, institutional and infrastructure needs for States planning to construct and operate nuclear power plants.
I look forward to the recommendations of the meeting of the INPRO Steering Committee in May, which should provide guidance on how to move the INPRO project into the next phase - including how best to co-ordinate our work with that of other initiatives, such as the US-led Generation IV International Forum. The results of INPRO's work to date will be presented at an international conference on innovative reactor and fuel cycle technologies to be held in June.
As will be highlighted by the World Water Forum that is taking place this week in Kyoto, freshwater availability is a critical global challenge for this century. The Agency is helping to meet this challenge in two ways: by improving groundwater resource management using isotope hydrology - a nuclear technique that received considerable acknowledgement at last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development - and by supporting the development of technology for the nuclear desalination of seawater.
You have before you the progress report on the Secretariat's recent activities related to nuclear desalination. I am pleased to note that efforts in this area are moving well beyond feasibility studies into actual projects. Both the Indian project at Kalpakkam - which is now in the commissioning test stage - and the Pakistani project at Karachi should help to build confidence in the economics and safety of nuclear desalination. Two international studies are also in progress under the Agency's aegis: one to evaluate the economic feasibility of constructing a nuclear desalination plant in Indonesia using the Republic of Korea's SMART design; and another by France and Tunisia, regarding the feasibility of a nuclear power and desalination plant in Tunisia.
The Agency project on the potential use of the sterile insect technique (SIT) to eradicate the malaria-bearing mosquito is gaining momentum. More resources have been allocated to the project, and we are proceeding at our laboratory at Seibersdorf to develop mass breeding technologies and insectaries to support the project. A preliminary mission to Sudan has identified a field site that appears well suited for an early feasibility study.
Nuclear De-Mining Techniques
The Agency has been encouraging research on the use of nuclear techniques for land-mine identification, to make humanitarian de-mining operations faster and safer. One such instrument known as PELAN, which can identify mines through a neutron interaction technique, has reached an advanced state of development. The USA donated one such instrument for field tests in Croatia under a technical co-operation project, which demonstrated the capability of this instrument to detect antitank mines and large antipersonnel mines. Refinement of this instrument and field testing of other instruments are planned for later this year.
In June 2002, the Agency convened an international meeting of experts from academia, industry and government focusing on the management of nuclear knowledge. At the General Conference in September, the importance of these issues was reiterated in the Scientific Forum, and a resolution was passed emphasizing the importance Member States attach to addressing the problems of succession planning to attract young people to the nuclear workforce, maintaining the safety case as workers retire, and retaining nuclear science and engineering data and knowledge.
The second annex to the Nuclear Technology Review summarizes our actions taken to date in response to this resolution. I would draw your attention to three points. First, we are assembling and disseminating information on nuclear knowledge management initiatives already under way in Member States, and studying what the Agency can do to leverage the impact of such efforts. Second, we have been discussing a proposal with the World Nuclear Association to create a network of educational and research institutions with strong programmes in nuclear science and engineering that would help to strengthen curriculums and would work jointly to attract more young people to these programmes. And third, the Agency has launched a pilot project on "Fast Reactor Knowledge Preservation" to establish a comprehensive international inventory of data and knowledge that would ensure long term access to quality information on all aspects of fast reactor research, design, construction, operation and decommissioning.
The Nuclear Safety Review for 2002, which you have before you, represents a change from the reviews of recent years, in that it offers a more analytical overview of current and emerging nuclear safety trends and issues around the world. Safety performance in nuclear power plants, as well as radiation safety in both power and non-power nuclear activities, continues to improve worldwide - although there remains a considerable need for improvement.
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on
the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management
Inventories of spent nuclear fuel continue to rise, and are drawing increasing attention and concern from decision-makers and the public at large. I should bring to your attention the upcoming International Conference on Spent Fuel Storage from Nuclear Power Reactors, to be held here in Vienna in June. The conference will review the spent fuel storage situation worldwide, and will highlight best practices in terms of safety, security, economics, licensing, technology, national policy and international co-operation. In this regard, I would also note that the European Commission has recently proposed a directive on waste management that would set timetables for its Member States to identify sites and construct repositories for the disposal of high level waste and spent fuel.
Only 30 States so far have ratified the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Given the importance of safely managing spent fuel and radioactive waste, I would urge all other States to become party to the Joint Convention as soon as possible. This will permit a broader participation in the first review meeting of the Joint Convention in November of this year.
More than half of the Agency's new and revised safety standards have now been published, and most of the others are in an advanced stage of preparation. Our aim is in the near future to have a comprehensive and up-to-date corpus of safety standards. But an area of continuing emphasis will be how to ensure that IAEA safety standards are accepted and implemented worldwide. At my request, the Commission on Safety Standards has taken the initiative to develop a strategy to promote their use in Member States and enhance their visibility.
In this context, I would note the continuing efforts of the European Commission (EC) to strengthen nuclear and radiation safety in the European Union (EU). I have informed the Board earlier about the ongoing work in the EC towards a Community approach to nuclear safety. In January this year a Directive setting out basic obligations and general principles on the safety of nuclear installations was approved by the EC and is being submitted for review by the EU Member States EC and is being submitted for review by the EU Member States.
I have consistently conveyed the Agency's view to the EC that nuclear safety will be best served through the development and application of a single set of standards that reflect international best practices and are universally applied. In this connection, the Secretariat recently proposed to the EC that we initiate joint consultations on the proposed EU safety standards.
Research Reactor Safety
Currently, 275 research reactors are in operation around the world, 220 are shut down and 159 have been decommissioned. The safety of research reactors and the management of research reactor fuel continue to be areas of Agency emphasis. In that regard, the USA in 1996 initiated efforts to have spent research reactor fuel of US origin returned to the USA for disposal, and I am pleased that efforts towards the same objective for research reactor fuel of Russian origin are being discussed. An initiative by Russia, the USA and the Agency, focused on the feasibility of returning research reactor fuel of Russian origin back to Russia for management and disposition, is finalizing arrangements for the first shipment to take place from Uzbekistan later this year. I do hope that efforts will be made to repatriate all research reactor spent fuel of US and Russian origin.
You have before you a draft Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors, which was drafted by an open ended working group. A number of Member States have requested additional time to review the draft Code and provide their comments. We would propose, therefore, that the discussion of the Code be deferred to the September Board.
Conference on Security of Radioactive Sources
An issue of continuing safety and security concern relates to the control of radioactive sources. Despite the increased level of attention given to this problem since September 2001, many countries still lack the programmes and the resources to properly respond to the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. The Agency database of illicit trafficking, combined with reports of discoveries of plans for radiological dispersal devices, makes it clear that there is a market for obtaining and using radiological sources for malevolent purposes. Given the apparent readiness of terrorists to disregard their own personal safety, the personal danger from handling powerful radioactive sources can no longer be seen as an effective deterrent.
A radiological dispersal device, or "dirty bomb," would not necessarily result in widespread fatalities, but the panic and social disruption associated with radiological contamination and radiation exposure correspond exactly to the very purpose of an act of terror. And the fact that no such device has been used to date does not mean that this is not an imminent threat. In that regard, last week here in Vienna the Agency hosted an international conference on security of radioactive sources, co-sponsored by Russia and the USA, with active participation by more than 700 delegates from over 120 Member States. The conference emphasized the need for: assisting States with locating and securing orphaned radioactive sources; encouraging the development of strong national regulatory oversight bodies and national source registries; providing training and assistance on improving border controls and preventing illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials; and promulgating guidance that will help to strengthen these national and international efforts. These actions are consistent with the Agency's existing efforts under the Nuclear Security Action Plan, and we will intensify these efforts based on the conference recommendations.
The nuclear arms control regime is being challenged and is clearly under stress. The challenges include: our current effort to verify Iraq's nuclear capabilities; DPRK's blatant defiance of its NPT safeguards obligations; failure of countries to fulfil their legal obligations to conclude and bring into force safeguards agreements; slow progress on the conclusion and entry into force of additional protocols; and almost total stagnation on moving towards nuclear disarmament and towards universality. For the nuclear arms control regime to maintain its integrity, progress must occur on all these fronts.
Status of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
Despite intensified Agency efforts to promote the conclusion of safeguards agreements and additional protocols, through regional seminars and visits to capitals, progress remains limited. As a result of the Johannesburg seminar last June, the Board has before it safeguards agreements with additional protocols for Burkina Faso, Mauritania and the Seychelles, as well as an additional protocol with Gabon. And since the last meeting of the Board in November, Belgium has completed its statutory requirements for entry into force of its additional protocol, an additional protocol entered into force for Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates signed a safeguards agreement with the Agency.
But despite this incremental progress, the number of safeguards agreements and additional protocols actually in force continues to be well below expectations. I regret to report again that 48 States have yet to fulfil their obligations under the NPT to bring safeguards agreements with the Agency into force, and that additional protocols have entered into force for only 29 States. As I have often stated, in States without safeguards agreements in force, the Agency cannot provide any non-proliferation assurances, and in States that do not have an additional protocol in force, similar to the situation prior to the Gulf War when we failed to uncover Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme, the assurance provided by the safeguards system remains limited with regard to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. I would reiterate my call on all States that have not done so to conclude and bring into force their respective safeguards agreements and additional protocols.
Visit to Iran
Last month I visited the Islamic Republic of Iran, at the invitation of the Government, to discuss its plans for the use of nuclear power as well as information that came to our knowledge last September concerning the development of nuclear fuel cycle facilities in Iran. My colleagues and I were able to visit a number of facilities - including a gas centrifuge enrichment pilot plant at Natanz that is nearly ready for operation, and a much larger enrichment facility still under construction at the same site.
During my visit, I emphasized to the Iranian authorities that it is important for all States, and particularly those with sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities, to be fully transparent in their use of nuclear technology. In this connection I stressed the value of bringing an additional protocol into force as an important tool for enabling the Agency to provide comprehensive assurances. During my meetings with President Khatami and other officials, Iran affirmed its obligations under the NPT to use all nuclear technology in the country exclusively for peaceful purposes, and to follow a policy of transparency. To this end it agreed to amend the Subsidiary Arrangements of its safeguards agreement, thereby committing Iran to provide design information on all new nuclear facilities at a much earlier date. And I was assured that the conclusion of an additional protocol will be actively considered. The Secretariat is currently discussing with the Iranian authorities a number of safeguards issues that need to be clarified, and actions that need to be taken.
Status of Safeguards Agreement with the
Since the last regular meeting of the Board of Governors in November, we have, as you know, held two special sessions related to the status of the Agency's NPT safeguards agreement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). On 12 February, the Board adopted a resolution which confirmed that the agreement remained binding and in force, and called upon the DPRK to urgently remedy its non-compliance with the agreement. The Board also decided to report the DPRK's further non-compliance, and the Agency's continuing inability to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material subject to safeguards in the DPRK, to all Agency Member States and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations. In parallel, the Board stressed its continuing desire for a peaceful resolution of this issue.
On the day the resolution was adopted, I transmitted the Board's resolution to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK. I also sent letters to the Presidents of the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly to inform both organs of the Board's resolution. Since that time, my letter to the DPRK has elicited no response, and no positive developments have been reported as a result of the various diplomatic initiatives that have taken place. Regrettably, recent reports indicate that the DPRK has restarted its 5 MW reactor at Nyongbyong. Clearly, the operation of this facility without the appropriate safeguards is in violation of the DPRK's safeguards agreement. At this stage, the Agency cannot provide any assurance about the DPRK's nuclear activities, and we are unable to verify that its nuclear material has not been diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. I continue to urge all parties to the NPT and in particular the parties directly concerned to accelerate their efforts to bring the DPRK into full compliance with its non-proliferation obligations.
Inspections in Iraq
With regard to Iraq, I am able to report that, since the resumption of nuclear weapons inspections pursuant to the relevant Security Council resolutions a little over three months ago, the Agency has made progress in identifying what nuclear related capabilities remain in Iraq, and in its assessment of whether Iraq has made any efforts to revive its past nuclear programme during the intervening four years since inspections were brought to a halt. To date we have found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.
I should note that, in recent weeks, possibly as a result of increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been more forthcoming in its co-operation with the IAEA. I should also note that over the weekend, both Dr. Blix and I received an invitation from the Iraqi authorities to visit Iraq with a view to accelerating the implementation of our respective mandates.
Late last night, however, I was advised by the United States Government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad. Similar advice has been given to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). I immediately informed the President of the Security Council and asked for guidance. I also informed the United Nations Secretary-General. I understand that the Security Council will take up the issue today. Naturally, the safety of our staff remains our primary consideration at this difficult time. I earnestly hope - even at this late hour - that a peaceful resolution of the issue can be achieved, and that the world can be spared a war.
Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials
With regard to the efforts since 1999 to amend the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), I am able to report that, last Friday, I have received the Final Report of the Open-ended Legal and Technical Expert Group on its work to prepare the text of possible amendments to the Convention. The text prepared includes the long overdue extension of the scope of the CPPNM to cover - in addition to nuclear material in international transport - nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, as well as the protection of nuclear material and facilities from sabotage. The text, regrettably, still contains a small number of bracketed clauses on which agreement has not yet been reached: for example, how the Fundamental Principles of physical protection are to be incorporated into an amended Convention, and whether offences should include damage to the environment.
I will circulate the group's Final Report and the proposed amendments to all Parties to the Convention for their consideration as to whether to initiate the procedure for the convening of an Amendment Conference in accordance with Article 20 of the CPPNM.
Increase in Professional Salaries
The United Nations General Assembly has approved, with effect from 1 January 2003, an increase in the current net base salary scale for staff at the level of P-4 and above. This increase is meant to redress - in accordance with the established system for determining salaries for Professional staff across the UN system - the salary imbalance that had developed during recent years. Pursuant to IAEA Staff Regulations, I have implemented this increase as of 1 January 2003, subject to the approval of the Board. The estimated costs for 2003 will be absorbed within available resources.
Planning for the 2004-2005 Programme and Budget
The Secretariat has held a number of meetings with Member States regarding the ongoing preparations of the 2004-2005 programme and budget, to further explain the details of the current proposals. Let me at this stage mention that it is clearly not feasible for the Agency to absorb some $30 million of mostly legally mandated activities through savings elsewhere in the budget. Nor is it feasible to redefine our safeguards verification system - a crucial component of international security - in order to achieve a budget reduction. It is also clearly not an option for the Secretariat to disregard - in order to preserve a policy of zero growth - your unanimous directives to maintain an appropriate balance among our various activities. The zero growth policy, in my view, has already started to chip away at the Agency's ability to perform its responsibilities effectively and efficiently. The conclusion therefore is that any proposed 2004-2005 programme and budget will by necessity have to include a substantial break from zero real growth.
The Secretariat's responsibility is to prepare a draft programme and budget that responds to the programme requested by Member States. As such, the budget we are proposing is not the Secretariat's budget; it is simply the price tag for the programme requested.
In that regard, it is important to stress that the Agency's programmes can only be implemented effectively and efficiently if all Member States - both donors and recipients - contribute their financial share to all Agency activities. At the present time, 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. In the technical co-operation area, we have to date managed to achieve only 78.9% of the "rate of attainment" for 2002, which is set at 85%. The burden of this failure is by no means fully shared among all Member States; the actual rate of contributions varies widely from State to State, and from region to region. While most major donors pay in full, some have not paid at all, or have paid much less than their share. And while one region of recipient States achieved an 86.4% rate of attainment, another region paid less than 1%. My point in sharing these facts is simple: there is little point in negotiating a budget increase or a new target for the Technical Co-operation Fund if some States do not pay, or pay less than their share. Financing global multilateral institutions is a collective responsibility to which all have to contribute if we want these institutions to remain viable as centres of international co-operation.
The Agency's verification role is currently in the spotlight, but the state-of-the-art verification regime we are trying to build will be effective only if all Member States fulfil their respective legal obligations. We are continuing to press for a comprehensive and effective nuclear safety regime - but pockets of weakness remain, in both the nuclear and the radiation safety areas. In the nuclear security area, the Secretariat has made intensive efforts to prepare and implement an action plan - which is already making a positive impact - but much remains to be done, including better control of radioactive sources. Nuclear technologies provide significant opportunities for economic and social development - but we need to work together to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of these technologies. In regard to all of our activities, I am reminded of the words of Adlai Stevenson in 1952, "There is no evil in the atom; only in men's souls".