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5 March 2012 | Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors

Introductory Statement to Board of Governors

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. Chairman,

Next Sunday is the first anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Considerable effort has been made to restore normality at the plant and the Japanese authorities have declared that they have reached cold shut down status. But there is still much to be done in the coming months and years. I will begin today by updating you on developments in the area of nuclear safety, which is the subject of three items on your Agenda.

You have before you my second report on Progress in the Implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. Good progress has been made. At a technical briefing to Member States in January, we outlined the broad range of activities still to be undertaken by the Agency and Member States under the Action Plan. We launched the Nuclear Safety Action Plan Web Platform, which provides up-to-date information on implementation and enables Member States to share safety-related technical information. The new IAEA methodology for assessing the safety vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants was used as the basis for an IAEA international expert mission to Japan in January to review the country's approach to carrying out so-called stress tests.

We completed a systematic review of the IAEA Safety Standards. A number of areas were identified for strengthening and proposals will be considered by the Safety Standards Committees this month. I look forward to receiving a report from the Commission on Safety Standards later in the year. IAEA peer reviews have been strengthened to incorporate lessons learned to date. Last December, we held discussions at a senior level with the World Association of Nuclear Operators and agreed to improve coordination of our activities. A review of the application of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) as a communication tool was initiated last month.

An International Experts' Meeting on Reactor and Spent Fuel Safety will take place later this month, with around 250 experts expected to attend. The Japanese Government announced that it would hold a Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, co-sponsored by the Agency, in Fukushima Prefecture from 15 to 17 December.

You also have before you the Nuclear Safety Review 2012, which has been restructured to provide a better overview of the main trends, issues and challenges worldwide in 2011. It incorporates a review of the preliminary lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in areas such as site safety and design, severe accident management and regulatory effectiveness. I hope you will find the new report interesting and user-friendly.

The third nuclear safety item on your Agenda is entitled Draft Safety Requirements: Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material. In this regard, a meeting will be held next week to consider the outcome of last October's conference on the safe, secure and sustainable transport of radioactive material. One item on the agenda will be a proposal by the International Civil Aviation Organization for closer inter-agency cooperation in the area of transport. I welcome this proposal, which I believe would help to address problems concerning denial of shipment of medical isotopes which are essential in cancer treatment, and I count on your support.

Mr. Chairman,

I am pleased to inform you about the new process which we are introducing for the development and review of the Agency's Nuclear Security Series publications.

As announced in my report on Development and Review of the Agency's Nuclear Security Series Publications, I have established a Nuclear Security Guidance Committee, made up of senior experts in the field and open to all Member States. I hope that the new Committee will lead to more Member States taking part in the development of the Agency's Nuclear Security Series.

I look forward to participating at the end of this month in the Nuclear Security Summit to be hosted in Seoul by the Republic of Korea.

Nuclear Energy

Mr. Chairman,

The Nuclear Technology Review 2012 contains interesting data on the initial impact of the Fukushima Daiichi accident on the nuclear power sector. It shows that 13 reactors were permanently retired in 2011, 12 of them as a direct result of the accident. There were seven new grid connections - the third straight year of increases. But there were only four construction starts on new reactors (three of which are reported in the NTR; the fourth was reported to us last month).

Nevertheless, the Agency's updated projections suggest that the drop in construction starts will be temporary. The use of nuclear power will continue to grow in the coming decades. There were 65 reactors under construction at the end of 2011, 44 of them in Asia, which remains the centre of growth.

In 2012, we will strengthen our focus on supporting national infrastructure development in Member States with firm plans to embark on nuclear power. Last November, the Agency completed a sixth Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission - to Bangladesh. A seventh is planned - to Belarus - in June. In January this year, we conducted the first INIR follow-up mission, to Jordan, and held the sixth annual workshop in Vienna on Managing the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power Plants, which was attended by participants from 43 Member States.

Assurance of Supply
Work is continuing on the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank. A progress report has been circulated. Last week, the Government of Kazakhstan confirmed the site for the LEU Bank. I look forward to starting negotiations with Kazakhstan on a Host State Agreement, which will be submitted to the Board for approval.

Since the last Board meeting, the Agency has received 10 million euros from the European Union - out of its pledged contribution of 25 million - and 10 million US dollars from Kuwait. I express my thanks to both.

After almost one year, we are now moving from planning and preparation to the project implementation phase. In order to ensure effective coordination among all relevant parts of the Secretariat, my intention is to put the LEU Bank project - the most complex project the Agency has ever undertaken - under the direct supervision of the Director General's Office for Policy.

A briefing for Member States on the status of this project will be organised when we have more developments to report.

Nuclear Applications

Mr. Chairman,

I will now turn to nuclear applications. After focusing on the Agency's work in cancer control in 2010 and on water in 2011, I plan to pay special attention this year to nuclear applications related to food. I will highlight the Agency's contribution in food production, food protection and food safety. There are an estimated 925 million malnourished people in the world, 30% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. A child dies every six seconds because of undernourishment.

Let me mention a few examples of our work in this area. In food production, the IAEA has helped Bangladesh to alleviate seasonal food shortages by introducing new high-yielding rice varieties, which mature early. In food protection, the Mediterranean fruit fly has officially been declared eradicated from north-western Guatemala, thanks to the IAEA's sterile insect technique. This has created numerous new jobs and doubled earnings from exports of certain fresh fruit and vegetables. In the area of food safety, food producers in Uruguay can now provide proof that their products do not contain harmful contaminants, thanks to IAEA support to the national veterinary laboratory.

In human health, our efforts to enhance capacity-building in radiation medicine have been furthered by the launch of a mobile learning application that broadens access to the existing IAEA Human Health Campus. This will be of particular benefit to practitioners in developing countries, where mobile phones are more widely available than personal computers.

The IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco have launched a new coordinated research project entitled Ocean Acidification and the Economic Impact on Fisheries and Coastal Society. The aim is to help Member States to understand and monitor changes in the ocean and protect both fishing conditions and corals.

The Laboratories are also contributing to the Nuclear Safety Action Plan in a number of ways. These include creating new dedicated reference materials and methods for environmental radioactivity analysis, developing an in-house technical capability to support rapid surveys of environmental contamination and helping Member States to develop underwater radioactivity monitoring techniques.

Nuclear Verification

ECAS Project
Turning now to nuclear verification, the ECAS project - Enhancing Capabilities of the Safeguards Analytical Services - is making good progress. Preparatory work has begun on the new Nuclear Material Laboratory (NML) in Seibersdorf. Construction of the "shell and core" of the building, as well as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, is expected to be completed in 2013, paving the way for a phased transition of activities from the old to the new NML.

I am grateful to those Member States which have already contributed to this extremely important project, and I encourage other Member States that are in a position to do so to contribute to ECAS.

Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
You have before you a draft comprehensive safeguards agreement, a small quantities protocol and an additional protocol for Guinea-Bissau. Since my last report to the Board, Andorra and Namibia have brought additional protocols into force. Guinea signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement, a small quantities protocol and an additional protocol. The Republic of Moldova signed an additional protocol. Ghana rescinded its small quantities protocol.

The number of countries with additional protocols in force now stands at 115. I strongly hope that remaining States will conclude additional protocols as soon as possible. I also ask the 14 States parties to the NPT without safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay, and call on States with small quantities protocols that have not yet done so to amend or rescind those protocols.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Concerning the application of safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, last week's announcement about the outcome of the recent talks between the United States and the DPRK is an important step in the right direction.

As I have said before, the Agency has an essential role to play in verifying the DPRK's nuclear programme. Pending further clarification and consultation with parties concerned, we stand ready, upon request and with the approval of the Board of Governors, to return to Yongbyon.

As you know, the Agency has not been able to implement any safeguards measures in the DPRK for nearly three years, so our knowledge of the current status of the country's nuclear programme is limited. I again call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, to come into full compliance with the NPT and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency.

Implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Mr. Chairman,

As my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran makes clear, the Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme.

In January and February, a senior Agency team held two rounds of talks in Tehran with Iranian officials aimed at resolving all outstanding issues in connection with Iran's nuclear programme. Despite intensive discussions, there was no agreement on a structured approach to resolving these issues. Iran did not grant access to the Parchin site during the visits, as requested by the Agency. Iran provided an initial declaration on the issues listed in the Annex to my November 2011 report, although it did not address the Agency's concerns in a substantive manner. During the visits, the Agency also submitted questions on Parchin and the possible role of a foreign expert.

Developments since my last report include: the tripling of monthly production of 20% enriched UF6 in Iran as four cascades started operation at Fordow for the first time; the operation of fifteen additional cascades at Natanz; the start of production at Esfahan of fuel plates and a fuel assembly for use in the Tehran Research Reactor; and the start of fabrication of fuel pellets and rods for use in the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor, the IR-40.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. But, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

Regarding future steps, the Agency will continue to address the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and in a constructive spirit. The basic objective is to resolve all outstanding issues, in particular those related to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme, and restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities without further delay. Our whole approach will be focused on achieving that objective. I believe it is essential that our future work should follow a structured approach, based on Agency verification practice. The views of Member States are of vital importance in finding a solution.

I urge Iran, as required in the binding resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, to take steps towards the full implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and its other obligations.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
Concerning the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Board will recall that, in June last year, I reported the Agency's conclusion that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was very likely to have been a nuclear reactor and should have been declared by Syria.

In response to my letter of November 2011 inviting Syria to address remaining outstanding issues regarding the full implementation of its safeguards agreement, I received a reply from Syria dated 20 February 2012, which asked for understanding of "the difficult circumstances and the delicate situation that Syria is passing through." The letter pledged that Syria would continue to cooperate with the Agency to resolve outstanding issues.

The Agency continues to seek full access to other locations which the Agency believes are functionally related to the Dair Alzour site. I urge Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with unresolved issues related to the Dair Alzour site and other locations.

Middle East Forum

Last November, I hosted an IAEA Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone in the Middle East. I was very encouraged by the positive spirit in which the Forum was conducted. I will submit a report to the Board and the General Conference in September.

One of the key lessons I took away was that it is possible to have a constructive dialogue on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone, despite the complexity of the issue and differences of views among the States concerned. Mistrust between key parties can be overcome in time and replaced by mutual confidence and cooperation. The IAEA will continue to assist, as requested, with the establishment of new nuclear-weapon-free-zones, in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Management and Other Issues

Mr. Chairman,

Turning briefly to management issues, the Agency's Draft Budget Update for 2013 was released on 9 February. It proposes zero real growth, as was indicated in the 2012-2013 budget. It also includes a moderate price adjustment of 1.4%, reflecting an increase in professional salaries below that recommended by the International Civil Service Commission. The 2013 Budget Update and the current 2012 budget include basic funding for a possible resumption of Agency activities in the DPRK. Actual financing needs will be reported to the Board for its approval.

By setting clear priorities and encouraging voluntary contributions, we hope to ensure that adequate funding is available in 2013 to support the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety within the current level of the regular budget. The Budget Update also details my proposal to use underspent funds from prior years to address capital needs, mainly by using the Major Capital Investment Fund mechanism approved by Member States in 2009. Overall, I believe this is a fiscally conservative proposal.

Two final points: I wish to inform you that I have established a cross-departmental Risk Management Group which is working to address and mitigate identified risks to the work of the Agency. And, we have begun implementing the Medium Term Strategy 2012-2017, which was taken note of by the Board in December 2010.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.