Statements of the Director General
10 September 2007 | 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 Agency activities.
The Agency continues to explore ways and means that enable Member States to make full use of nuclear technology to meet their socioeconomic needs. I will give a few recent examples.
Disposal of Radioactive Sources
Many countries have been interested in finding better methods for safely disposing of spent high activity radioactive sources (or "SHARS"). Working with the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, the Agency has developed and pilot tested the "SHARS Installation", a mobile hot cell used to condition these sources for disposal. Conditioning operations are planned in several African countries. Depending on progress there, this initiative will be expanded to Latin America and Asia.
Another Agency effort has been to assist more Member States to become self-reliant in isotope hydrology. We have published an Atlas of Isotope Hydrology for Africa that provides an overview of the nature of aquifers and river hydrology in 26 countries. The Agency also helped to adapt a new machine for isotope analysis that uses laser spectroscopy. This machine will cost about 75% less than existing mass spectrometers, and will perform equivalent analyses with very low operation and maintenance costs.
Combating Bird Flu
The need for early, rapid and sensitive diagnosis of bird flu - avian influenza - has received special attention in recent years because of the potential for widespread devastation if an uncontrolled outbreak were to occur. Nuclear related technologies limit handling and direct exposure to the live virus, and enable diagnosis of bird flu in one or two days - as compared to over a week with conventional methods. In addition, stable isotope techniques are being used to help Member States trace infected migratory birds to their place of origin. The Agency, together with other key players such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has coordinated research on this topic and conducted training courses at relevant laboratories.
Nuclear Safety and Security
The safety and security of nuclear activities around the globe remain key components of the Agency´s mandate. For those countries embarking on nuclear power programmes, it is essential that they become part of the global nuclear safety regime and share responsibility for its sustainability. Technology can be transferred, but safety culture cannot; it must be learned and embedded.
Safety Review Services
Last year the Agency began offering an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), which combined a broad range of previous services. The first full scope IRRS was conducted in France in November 2006, covering all regulated nuclear and radiation facilities, activities and practices, including nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel cycle facilities, medical practices, industrial and research activities, waste facilities, decommissioning, remediation and transport. The French Nuclear Safety Authority requested that the mission also cover public information practices. In March, the French Government hosted a workshop, attended by representatives from over 30 countries, so that operators and regulators of other Member States could learn more about the IRRS and experience gained during the mission. The Agency also conducted IRRS missions to Australia and Japan in June 2007. Future missions are scheduled for Canada, Germany, Mexico, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Spain, Ukraine and the United States of America. The Spanish Nuclear Safety Council has offered to organize the next workshop, in late 2008 or early 2009, to disseminate information on the results of IRRS missions conducted in 2007 and 2008.
Mission to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant
Following the recent earthquake that affected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, the Agency dispatched a team of international experts at the request of the Japanese Government.
The team´s review supported the Japanese conclusions: (1) that plant safety features had performed as required during the event, including the automatic shutdown of the reactor; (2) that the amount of radioactivity released was very small and well below the authorized limits for public health and environmental safety; and (3) that damage from the earthquake appeared to be limited to those sections of the plant that would not affect the reactor or systems related to reactor safety. The earthquake significantly exceeded the level of seismic activity for which the plant was designed. However, as with most nuclear plants, additional robustness had been incorporated into the plant design, which likely accounted for the damage being less than could have otherwise been expected. I should point out that the observations and conclusions relating to the behaviour of the plant structures, systems and components still require validation through the ongoing investigations.
The mission´s preliminary findings and the Japanese analyses of the event include important lessons learned - both positive and negative - that will be relevant to other nuclear plants worldwide. The public response to the team´s findings also plainly illustrates the importance and value of transparency and international collaboration in response to such events.
Revisions to the BSS
Revision began early this year on the International Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Ionizing Radiation and for the Safety of Radiation Sources, known as the BSS. As cautioned by the General Conference last year, the revision process is avoiding changes to the BSS that are not clearly warranted and necessary. A first draft of the revised BSS was reviewed in July by a technical meeting, which included participation from professional technical associations and potential co-sponsor organizations in addition to Member State experts. The involvement of all stakeholders throughout the process will be key to the success of this review.
Nuclear Security and Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism
The Agency´s nuclear security programme has maintained its rapid pace of programme delivery. Implementation activities in 2006 increased considerably over the previous year, and the indications are that implementation will again be high in 2007.
Over the past 12 months, we have continued to expand Member State participation in the Illicit Trafficking Database. Nuclear security training has been provided to roughly 1650 individuals from 90 countries. The Agency assisted in improving physical protection at facilities in nine States. More than 900 items of security related equipment were supplied to Member States, including border detection equipment for 29 countries. Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans were completed in 38 countries, and the agreed activities have been planned or are being implemented in each of the States concerned. Expertise has been provided to support the security of major public events, including preparations this past July in Brazil for the Pan American Games, and ongoing preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Agency´s nuclear security work has clearly improved overall nuclear security. But much remains to be done in shaping the nuclear security framework, in building up-to-date security systems and in dealing with the legacy of past lax security. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight; it takes time and resources to achieve a sustainable, internationally acceptable baseline level of nuclear security.
The international community has taken on board a variety of international instruments relevant to nuclear security. The rapid entry into force of the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism is a welcome step forward. However, progress on ratifying the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material remains slow. Out of 128 States Parties, only 11 so far have accepted the Amendment.
The Agency is foreseen as playing an important role in the implementation of these instruments. To that end, we have started an effort to provide nuclear security guidance that would facilitate implementation. This and other programme changes entail transitioning from a situation in which strengthening nuclear security has been addressed as an ad hoc reaction to the prevailing threat of nuclear terrorism to a situation in which nuclear security will be addressed in a normative, sustainable manner.
Verification of Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Status of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
You have before you for approval NPT safeguards agreements for the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, as well as an additional protocol for Timor-Leste.
It is now more than ten years since the Model Additional Protocol was approved by the Board of Governors - and additional protocols are in force for 83 States, just over half of the 162 States with safeguards agreements. More than 100 States have yet to bring into force additional protocols, and 31 States party to the NPT have not even brought into force their required comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency.
I would call on all States to take urgent action to remedy this situation. I repeat that without safeguards agreements, the Agency cannot provide any assurance about a State´s nuclear activities, and without the additional protocol, the Agency cannot provide credible assurance regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activity.
Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea
You have before you a report on the application of safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Following the special meeting of the Board in July, the Agency has maintained a continuous presence in the DPRK to implement the agreed verification and monitoring arrangements related to the shutdown and sealing of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. We have been able to verify the DPRK´s shutdown of this facility, including the nuclear fuel fabrication plant, the radiochemical laboratory, the 5 megawatt experimental nuclear power plant, and the 50 megawatt nuclear power plant - as well as the 200 megawatt nuclear power plant in Taechon.
This a positive step forward. I particularly welcome the active cooperation the IAEA team is continuing to receive from the DPRK. The Agency looks forward to continuing to work with the DPRK as the verification process evolves.
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The report before you provides an update on the implementation of Agency safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report makes four main points.
First, the Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has continued to provide the access and reporting needed to enable Agency verification in this regard.
Second, Iran has provided the Agency with additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long outstanding issues. In particular, Agency questions regarding past plutonium experiments in Iran have been satisfactorily answered, and this issue has been resolved. Questions about the presence and origin of high enriched uranium particles at the Karaj Waste Storage Facility have also been resolved.
Third, contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with the construction and operation of the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Iran is also continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak. This is regrettable.
Fourth, despite repeated requests by the Board and the Security Council to Iran, the Agency has so far been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. It was this situation that triggered a crisis of confidence about the nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, which led to a series of actions by the UN Security Council. However, during a meeting I had with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Dr. Larijani, it was agreed that Iran would work with the Agency to develop a work plan for resolving all outstanding verification issues. A copy of the resulting work plan between Iran and the Secretariat is attached to my report.
This is the first time that Iran has agreed on a plan to address all outstanding issues, with a defined timeline, and is therefore an important step in the right direction. Naturally, the key to gauging Iran´s commitment will be its willingness to implement this work plan fully and in a timely manner. This would require active cooperation by Iran and its undertaking of all the transparency measures needed to reconstruct the history of its nuclear programme - measures that are provided for in the additional protocol and beyond, and which include access to locations, documents and individuals, as well as answers to all questions the Agency may need to ask in order to reach a technical conclusion on a particular issue. Resolving all outstanding verification issues in the next two to three months, after a long deadlock, would go a long way towards building the confidence of the international community in the peaceful nature of Iran´s past nuclear programme.
But equally important, Iran obviously needs to continue to build confidence in the scope and nature of its current nuclear programme, including renewed access by the Agency to information relevant to ongoing advanced centrifuge research. To that end, and given the special history of Iran´s nuclear programme, it would be indispensable for Iran to ratify and bring into force its additional protocol, as called for by the Security Council and the Board. This would enable the Agency to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material but, equally important, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
Finally, I continue to hope that conditions will be created soon to make it possible for the resumption of negotiations between Iran and all relevant parties. I still believe it is only through negotiations that a durable solution could be achieved - a solution that provides the international community with the required level of assurance and enables Iran to exercise its rights under the NPT. To this end I repeat that a "double time-out" of all enrichment related activities and of sanctions could provide a breathing space for negotiations to be resumed. The earlier we move from confrontation and distrust to dialogue and confidence building, the better for Iran and for the international community.
Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East
Pursuant to the mandate given to me by the General Conference, I have continued my consultations with the States of the Middle East region on the application of full scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, and on the development of model agreements as a necessary step towards the establishment of a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. However, I regret to say that, as in the past, I have no progress to report on either front.
The General Conference has also asked me to organize a forum on the relevance of the experience of other regions with existing nuclear-weapon-free zones - including confidence building and verification measures - for establishing such a zone in the Middle East. Consultations with concerned States of the region has not produced an agreement on the agenda for such a forum, a forum that in my view could be a positive step forward towards the initiation of dialogue among the concerned parties on this important issue. I naturally remain ready to convene this forum, if and when the concerned States are able to reach agreement on how to move forward, and I will continue to encourage them to do so.
Technical cooperation (TC) programme resources and delivery both showed robust growth in 2006. Contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF) reached a record level. The rate of attainment reached its highest level ever, exceeding 93% by the end of the year. This demonstrates increased commitment by a growing number of Member States to pay their full share of the TCF target. I would urge all Member States to pay their target share in full and on time.
A number of projects have been slowed in their initial implementation due to the non-payment of National Participation Costs (NPCs). So far this year, six countries regrettably have not yet paid the minimum NPCs required to allow the initiation of important new projects. I would urge these countries to pay these small amounts, to enable the Agency to provide them with the full benefits of their national TC programmes.
Over the past two years, we have given special attention to applicants from developing, unrepresented and under-represented Member States. We have expanded our outreach efforts by providing regular forecasts of upcoming vacancies, conducting recruitment missions and establishing recruitment booths at major Agency and other meetings. We will continue in this effort, and I trust that you will assist us.
The Agency continues to face difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified women in the Professional and higher categories, particularly in scientific and engineering fields. This is largely a result of the low percentage of women in such fields in most Member States. However, we have taken a number of initiatives to help improve the gender balance in the Agency. We have developed a comprehensive gender policy and put in place policies related to work-life balance. We have also asked each Member State to designate a Point of Contact to actively support our efforts to recruit women.
By these and other means, we have been able to increase the representation of women in the Professional and higher categories from about 18% to 22.5% in four years. But we are still far from where we would like to be.
The Agency continues to assume growing and critical responsibilities in all areas of its work. Your support remains key to our success. I trust it will continue to be forthcoming.