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22 September 2008 | Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors

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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. I will limit my remarks to a few key areas.

Nuclear Applications

The Agency´s work in making nuclear applications available to developing countries to help boost food production and fight disease has become all the more important following the recent surge in global food prices. This has pushed millions of people deeper into poverty and hunger.

The work of the Joint Division of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been of great value to Member States. As you know, the FAO has been considering ending its involvement in the Joint Division. However, I am hopeful that it will not do so and that this area of cooperation, which has brought considerable benefits to many countries, can continue.

The Agency assists Member States in using isotope hydrology to manage their water resources. Following publication of an Isotope Hydrology Atlas for Africa last year, we have now completed a similar volume for the Asia and the Pacific region, with data from 16 countries.

Demand for technical cooperation from developing countries continues to grow. A new three-year Technical Cooperation Programme has been finalized with an emphasis on food and agriculture, human health and natural resources. It also reflects a growing interest from developing countries in the possible introduction of nuclear power.

Nuclear Safety and Security

We are proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IAEA Safety Standards programme. Safety and security both require continued vigilance and should always be considered as works in progress.

The Chairman of the International Nuclear Safety Group (INSAG) said in his annual letter to me:

"[A] nuclear power plant is operated by people, and thus the achievement of safety requires qualified operating personnel with an appropriately embedded safety culture. Moreover, safe operation can only be ensured if there is a comprehensive infrastructure in place that is properly maintained and improved throughout the life of the nuclear power programme."

Safety and security measures must be designed and implemented in an integrated manner, as the Commission on Safety Standards points out. In addition to the continued attention being paid to the safe and secure operation of nuclear power plants, there have been some significant achievements in other areas.

For example, 92 Member States have committed themselves to apply the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, while 46 have agreed to apply the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources. The integration of safety and security measures in creating and strengthening regulatory infrastructures for the control of sources also represents important progress.

Nuclear Security
The possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear or other radioactive material remains a grave threat. Through its Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) programme, the Agency collects information on incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive material. In the year to 30 June 2008, 243 such incidents were reported to the Agency, 21 of which involved the theft or loss of material which was not subsequently recovered.

The Agency continues to provide assistance to States with a view to improving border controls, strengthening physical protection at nuclear facilities and enhancing nuclear security at major public events, such as the Beijing Olympic Games.

Funding for nuclear security remains a cause for concern. The Agency depends almost entirely on extrabudgetary contributions in this area, which makes effective programme planning and prioritization difficult.

Radiological Protection of Patients
Together with the World Health Organization, the IAEA has taken a leading role in training health professionals worldwide under the International Action Plan on the Radiological Protection of Patients. However, as newer medical imaging and complex radiation therapy techniques are introduced, there are new reports of unnecessary and unintended exposures. The Commission on Safety Standards has noted the crucial need to enhance the application of the safety standards to reduce the frequency of over or under exposures in nuclear medicine.

New Nuclear Energy Programmes

Every country has the right to introduce nuclear power, as well as the responsibility to do it right. Nuclear power has obvious attractions for both developing and developed countries. Developing countries need access to electricity to help lift their people out of poverty and many are turning to the Agency for guidance on how to proceed. They are concerned about the fluctuating prices of oil and other fossil fuels and about uncertainty of supply, as well as about climate change.

Countries with rapidly growing economies, such as India and China, are poised to increase the share of nuclear power in their energy mix. Many others, with Agency assistance, are actively considering adding nuclear power to their energy mix.

Embarking on nuclear power is a complex process that requires an appropriate regulatory and legal framework, an effective and independent regulatory body and the building of the necessary human capacity. The obligation to ensure safety and security rests primarily with the country concerned, but it also extends to the countries of vendors supplying components and technical expertise.

Recipient countries should adhere to international treaties and conventions on nuclear safety and security. The use of the Agency´s systematic, integrated and tailored review services and compliance with IAEA Safety Standards should be a prerequisite at every stage of a State´s nuclear power development. And regulators must always put safety and security first, regardless of the pressure they may sometimes face to be guided by other considerations.

Nuclear Verification

Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
You have before you draft additional protocols for the Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Lesotho. In the case of Iraq, this complies with a specific request of the Security Council in Resolution 1762 (2007).

Implementation of Safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea
As explained in the report before you, the Agency has so far continued to verify the shutdown of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and to implement the ad hoc monitoring and verification arrangement, with the cooperation of the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Agency has not been asked to take part in the disablement activities, but has been able to observe and document them.

In that context, Agency inspectors have observed, after our report was distributed to you, that some equipment previously removed by the DPRK during the disablement process has been brought back. This has not changed the shutdown status of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. This morning, the DPRK authorities asked the Agency´s inspectors to remove seals and surveillance equipment to enable them to carry out tests at the reprocessing plant, which they say will not involve nuclear material.

I still hope that conditions can be created for the DPRK to return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the earliest possible date and for the resumption by the Agency of comprehensive safeguards.

Implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Regrettably, the Agency has not been able to make substantive progress on the alleged studies and associated questions relevant to possible military dimensions to Iran´s nuclear programme. These remain of serious concern.

Although Iran has acknowledged that some information in the relevant documentation, including names of individuals and organizations, is correct, it reiterated that all the documents are fabricated or forged. Iran has also declared that it has not performed any of the activities described in the alleged studies and reiterated its request to be provided with originals, or even copies, of the documentation. I call upon Member States which provided the Agency with documentation related to the alleged studies to authorize the Agency to share it with Iran.

However, as mentioned in the report which you have before you, Iran should clarify the extent to which information in the documentation is factually correct and where, as it asserts, such information may have been fabricated or relates to non nuclear purposes. In that context, Iran needs to give the Agency substantive information to support its statements and provide access to relevant documentation and individuals. Unless Iran provides such transparency, and implements the Additional Protocol, the Agency will not be able to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

I note that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have information - apart from the uranium metal document - on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon. Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities. Although Iran has so far produced only limited quantities of low enriched uranium (LEU), this is still a cause for concern for the international community in the absence of full clarity about Iran´s past and present nuclear programme.

I reiterate that the Agency does not in any way seek to "pry" into Iran´s conventional or missile-related military activities. Our focus is clearly on nuclear material and activities. We need, however, to make use of all relevant information to be able to confirm that no nuclear material is being used for nuclear weapons purposes. I am confident that arrangements can be developed which enable the Agency to do its work while ensuring that Iran´s legitimate right to protect the confidentiality of sensitive information and activities is respected. I again urge Iran to show full transparency and to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date.

It is now six years since we began intensive work to clarify Iran´s nuclear activities. It is in everyone´s interest that we should reach full clarity as soon as possible.

Implementation of Safeguards in the Socialist People´s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
The Agency has been able to verify the non diversion of declared nuclear material in Libya. Since December 2003, Libya has been implementing the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, which entered into force in August 2006. Libya has also provided the Agency unrestricted and prompt access, beyond that required under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, to locations, information and individuals requested by the Agency.

Libya has acknowledged that its past nuclear programme, from the mid 1980s until 2003, was aimed at the development of nuclear weapons. But it stated that it did not proceed with the design of nuclear weapons, nor did it have a complete fissile material production capability. The Agency did not find any indications of actual work related to nuclear weapons development. With the cooperation and transparency shown by Libya, the Agency has concluded that Libya´s statements concerning its nuclear programme are not inconsistent with the Agency´s findings.

I am pleased that the Agency is now able to implement safeguards in Libya in a routine manner. We will continue to work to reach a conclusion about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in the country.

In the course of its investigations, the Agency observed that much of the sensitive information provided by the clandestine supply network existed in electronic form, enabling easier use and dissemination. This includes information that relates to uranium centrifuge enrichment and, more disturbingly, to nuclear weapon design. Clearly, this is a matter of serious concern. It makes it all the more important for the Agency to have the legal authority, through the additional protocol, to provide assurance that there is no undeclared nuclear material in a country with a comprehensive safeguards agreement.

We will continue, in cooperation with Member States, to investigate the activities of the network insofar as they relate to the Agency´s mandate.

Implementation of Safeguards in the Syrian Arab Republic
In April this year, the Agency received information claiming that an installation destroyed by Israel in September 2007 at Al Kibar in Syria was a nuclear reactor. The Syrian authorities have repeatedly stated that the alleged site was not involved in any nuclear activities.

With Syria´s cooperation, the Agency was able to visit Al Kibar in June 2008. Samples taken from the site are still being analysed and evaluated by the Agency, but so far we have found no indication of any nuclear material.

In order to assess the veracity of information available to the Agency, we asked the Syrian authorities in July to provide access to additional information and locations. Syria has not yet responded to this request but has indicated that any further developments would depend on the results of the samples taken during the first visit.

I trust that Syria will show maximum cooperation and transparency and provide all the information needed by the Agency to complete its assessment.

Application of Safeguards in the Middle East

In line with the mandate given to me by the General Conference, I have continued my consultations with the States of the Middle East on the application of full scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region, and on the development of model safeguards agreements as a necessary step towards establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. Once again, I regret to say that it has not been possible to report progress on either front.

Following recent consultations with Member States in the Middle East, it seems that a convergence of views is emerging on the convening of a forum on the experience of other regions with existing nuclear-weapon-free zones, and on the relevance of this for the Middle East.

But there is still no consensus on the agenda and the issues which such a forum would need to address. I will continue my consultations with Member States in the Middle East with a view to convening a productive forum as early as practicable.

Report of the Commission of Eminent Persons

The Agenda includes a discussion on The Report of the Commission of Eminent Persons on the Future of the Agency. I hope Board Members have been able to give serious consideration to the proposals made by President Ernesto Zedillo and his colleagues.

The Commission members brought together an unrivalled range and depth of experience of government, science and diplomacy, from both developed and developing countries. They understand the constraints under which governments and international organizations have to operate. The Commission´s proposals deserve in-depth consideration and they should lead to action.

The Agency´s work is of crucial importance for international peace and security and for addressing poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world through the use of nuclear technology. I therefore encourage Board members to engage in a structured discussion of the Commission´s Report. This could perhaps involve the establishment of issue-specific focus groups which would look into each area in which the Commission has made proposals and then make recommendations to the Board.

It is clear that the work of the IAEA will be needed more and more in the decades to come. The decisions which Member States make in the coming months and years will determine how the Agency is able to respond to the challenges it continues to face.

These challenges are at the heart of the efforts of all of us to create a just, humane world at peace with itself.

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