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8 November 2010 | New York, USA

Statement to the Sixty-Fifth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. President,

This is my first report to the General Assembly as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A constant theme of my first year in office has been to pursue objectives in regard to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in a balanced manner.

I am trying to change the widespread perception of the Agency as simply the world´s "nuclear watchdog" because it does not do justice to our extensive activities in other areas, especially in nuclear energy, nuclear science and applications, and technical cooperation.

Today, I will review the highlights of the Agency´s work in the past year and share some thoughts on current issues. I will start with nuclear energy.

Nuclear Energy

In March, the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris illustrated the growing international interest in nuclear power as a clean and stable source of energy that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change. I expressed my conviction that access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries but should be available to developing countries as well.

Some 60 countries are considering introducing nuclear energy. We expect up to 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plants on line by 2030. Many of the countries which already have nuclear power are planning or building new reactors or extending the operational life of existing reactors.

While it is up to Member States to decide whether or not to opt for nuclear power, the Agency has a key role to play in ensuring that the expansion in nuclear power takes place in an efficient, responsible and sustainable manner. When countries express an interest in introducing nuclear power, we offer advice in many areas, including on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place and how to ensure the highest standards of safety and security, without increasing proliferation risks.

The Agency continues to assist countries which are expanding existing nuclear power programmes. That is where most new nuclear power plants will be built and where the lifetime of existing plants is being extended. Our work with these countries is focussed on areas such as operational safety and security, improving nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning old reactors.

The Agency signed an agreement with the Russian Federation in March to establish a low enriched uranium bank in Angarsk. This is intended to provide assurance of supply for nuclear power plants. Some IAEA Member States have proposed other assurance of supply mechanisms.

In view of the increasing interest of many countries in introducing nuclear power, I would like to encourage international lending institutions to consider being more open in their approach to funding nuclear power projects. I also believe that the benefits of nuclear power in mitigating the negative effects of climate change deserve wider recognition in the relevant international fora.

Nuclear Applications

The IAEA´s work in areas such as health care and nutrition, food security, the environment and water resource management is extremely important for many Member States.

I made cancer in developing countries a high priority for my first year in office. Some 665 people in developing countries die of cancer every hour - nearly three times as many as in developed countries. Around 70 percent of cancers in developing countries are diagnosed too late for life-saving treatment. In many low-income countries, there is not a single radiation therapy machine.

Since 1980, the IAEA has delivered over $220 million worth of cancer-related assistance to developing countries. Our special focus on cancer this year has already started to bear fruit. I believe we have succeeded in raising awareness of the problems of cancer in developing countries to a higher political level. Our cooperation with the World Health Organization is going from strength to strength. Pledges and donations to our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy are running at record levels. We are also seeing a very strong commitment by developing countries to our activities, which has led to an improvement in the quality of some of our cancer-related technical cooperation projects.

The availability of water for sustainable development is a growing concern. As Member States make increased efforts to meet this challenge, they need better scientific knowledge of their water resources. Nuclear technology is also very useful in this area. We have initiated a new IAEA Water Availability Enhancement Project, which is aimed at helping Member States to acquire this knowledge.

Nuclear Safety and Security

Turning now to nuclear safety and security, we have seen a very significant improvement in the safety performance of the nuclear industry since the Chernobyl disaster nearly 25 years ago. This reflects factors including improved design, better operating procedures, a strengthened and more effective regulatory environment and the emergence of a strong safety culture.

While it is the responsibility of States to ensure nuclear safety, the IAEA promotes an integrated approach to safety, focusing on management systems, effective leadership and safety culture. The Agency also promotes international cooperation, providing review services to Member States, and supporting knowledge networks and training.

While recognizing that nuclear security is the responsibility of States, the Agency continues to assist States in developing a sustainable nuclear security capacity.

In April, the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, attended by leaders from 47 countries, reaffirmed the essential role of the IAEA as part of the international nuclear security framework. It also pledged to ensure that the Agency has the resources to assist States in strengthening nuclear security.

Adherence to the relevant international legal instruments on nuclear security has gradually increased. However, while it is five years since the adoption of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, progress towards entry into force remains slow. I encourage the parties to the Convention to work towards accelerating the entry into force of the Amendment.

Technical Cooperation

Mr. President,

I take great pride in the fact that the Agency´s technical cooperation activities are making a real difference to the lives of many people in developing countries. As I mentioned, we make nuclear techniques available to help fight cancer, boost food production, combat animal diseases and improve management of scarce water resources, to name just a few areas.

Capacity-building is at the heart of our work in technical cooperation. The ultimate goal is to make countries self-sufficient - to help them establish or maintain a sustainable, highly specialized and trained human resource base in all areas of nuclear sciences and applications.

The IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, announced this year by the United States with a generous contribution of $ 50 million over a five year period, has resulted in increased funding for some of our technical cooperation activities, especially in the area of nuclear power infrastructure for countries embarking on new nuclear power programmes. I welcome a pledge of support from Japan and encourage other countries which are able to do so to contribute to this endeavour.

Nuclear Verification

Turning now to nuclear verification, I have continued to report regularly to the Board of Governors on implementation of Agency safeguards agreements. I have stressed that all safeguards agreements between States and the Agency, and other relevant obligations, should be implemented fully.

The nuclear programme of the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea remains a matter of serious concern. The Agency has had no inspectors in the country since April last year. The DPRK has not permitted the Agency to implement safeguards in the country since December 2002 and it has not implemented the measures called for in Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. I call on all parties concerned to make concerted efforts for a resumption of the Six-Party Talks at an appropriate time..

In the case of Iran, the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material, but Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

The cooperation needed includes, among other things, full implementation of relevant resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. President,

Turning now to the Middle East, I submitted a report on the Israeli nuclear capabilities to the IAEA General Conference in September, as requested by the General Conference in 2009. I also held consultations on convening a forum on the relevance of the experience of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones for establishing such a zone in the Middle East, but there was no convergence of views among Member States on this issue.

The Agency is supporting the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones in various regions of the world. The NPT Review Conference in May endorsed the convening of a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in that region. Having been personally involved in the NPT process since 1995, I was very pleased that the 2010 Review Conference produced some concrete results. I hope that the proposed 2012 conference will take place with the participation of all relevant States and that it will lead to a productive outcome.

Finally, Mr. President, I wish to reiterate that the Agency will continue to implement all aspects of its mandate in a balanced manner in order to address the varying interests of Member States and facilitate the safe and secure peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.

Thank you, Mr. President.