IAEA Contribution to International Peace, Security and Prosperity

23rd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues

Matsumoto, Japan

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address this 23rd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues.

I would like to begin by expressing my deepest sympathy, on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to the Government and people of Japan on the terrible earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country in March. Our thoughts are with the many thousands of people who lost loved ones or whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

As you know, this natural disaster of unprecedented severity led to a serious accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The IAEA has been working at full stretch since the accident happened on March 11 to assist the plant operator and the Japanese authorities in bringing the situation back under control.

Before talking about the Agency's work in nuclear non-proliferation, I would like to update you on recent developments concerning Fukushima Daiichi.

The IAEA has served as the international focal point for assistance, information-sharing and follow-up. We have shared authenticated information about the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant with Member States and sent specialist technical teams to advise Japan in areas such as radiological monitoring and food safety. Throughout the crisis, we have worked closely with our key partners in the UN system. In fact, this has been a good example of the UN "one house" approach at work.

I convened an IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety which took place in Vienna last month. It agreed a Ministerial Declaration which I am confident will lead to a significant strengthening of nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and radiation protection of people and the environment throughout the world. I was encouraged by the fact that proposals which I made in five key areas were included in the Ministerial Declaration.

These were:

  • To strengthen IAEA Safety Standards;
  • To systematically review the safety of all nuclear power plants, including by expanding the IAEA's programme of expert peer review missions;
  • To enhance the effectiveness of national nuclear regulatory bodies and ensure their independence;
  • To strengthen the global emergency preparedness and response system; and
  • To expand the Agency's role in receiving and disseminating information.

Translating these goals into action quickly is the Agency's highest priority at the moment. We are working on an Action Plan which will be presented to the Agency's Board of Governors and General Conference in September. Hard work will be required from all Member States, and from the IAEA, in the years ahead to make all nuclear power plants in the world as safe as humanly possible.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident is one of the most serious and complex disasters which human beings have ever had to deal with. I greatly appreciate the considerable efforts being made internationally to ensure that the right lessons are learned. I welcome Japan's proposal to host an international conference, together with the IAEA, in 2012 so that its first-hand experience of dealing with a major disaster can be shared for the benefit of all countries. Despite Fukushima Daiichi, global use of nuclear power will continue to grow in the coming decades and it will remain an important option for many countries. Nuclear safety is the responsibility of individual States, but the IAEA - the only international organization with expertise in all aspects of nuclear energy - will play the lead role in shaping a safer nuclear future throughout the world.

Mr. Chairman,

Ensuring that nuclear science and technology are used exclusively for peaceful purposes is the basic pillar upon which the IAEA was established more than five decades ago. A central Agency function is to verify that States are fully complying with their non-proliferation obligations and to confirm that nuclear material is being used for peaceful purposes. This is our contribution to achieving the goal described in the title of this Conference - Urgent and United Action towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.

Non-Nuclear-Weapon States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are required to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency, under which we conduct regular inspections of their nuclear material and activities. I also encourage all countries to conclude an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements. This instrument, introduced in 1997, greatly enhances the IAEA's verification capability by giving us expanded access to information and to relevant locations. It enables us to provide credible assurance not only about the non-diversion of declared nuclear material - that is, material about which a country has notified us - but also about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Such credible assurances are highly effective tools of international and regional confidence building. They can contribute decisively to forestalling the spread of threat perceptions and thus to reducing the risk of the further spread of nuclear weapons. So far, 109 countries have brought additional protocols into force.

My approach to nuclear verification since taking up office in December 2009 has been very straightforward: all safeguards agreements between Member States and the Agency, and other relevant obligations such as UN Security Council resolutions, should be implemented fully. I would like to update you briefly on a number of safeguards issues which have occupied the IAEA Board of Governors for some years.

First, Iran. The Agency can verify that nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement is not being diverted. However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. I urge Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of all relevant obligations in order to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

In the case of Syria, the Agency recently came to the conclusion that it is very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site in 2007 was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency. Following my latest report on this subject, the IAEA Board of Governors last month adopted a resolution finding Syria to be in non-compliance with its safeguards obligations. I continue to engage with Syria to resolve related outstanding issues.

The nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remains a matter of serious concern. As you may know, since April 2009 the Agency has not been able to implement any safeguards measures in that country. Last year's reports about the construction of a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor in the DPRK are deeply troubling. Once again, I urge the DPRK to fully implement all of the relevant resolutions of the IAEA General Conference and the Security Council.

Mr. Chairman,

Another important part of the Agency's work is helping countries to reduce the risk of terrorists obtaining nuclear or radioactive material and to prevent sabotage at nuclear facilities. The IAEA has an extensive nuclear security programme which covers everything from physical protection at facilities to radiation detection and response. We also help States to ensure nuclear security at major public events - for example, the London Olympic Games next year and the 2012 European Football Championship.

The IAEA maintains an Illicit Trafficking Database, which is the most authoritative global source of information on thefts or other unauthorized activities involving nuclear materials. Since 2002, we have trained around 9 000 people in 120 countries on all aspects of nuclear security and helped to repatriate highly enriched uranium research reactor fuel to the countries which produced it. We have also cleaned up radioactive sources, provided physical protection upgrades to nuclear facilities and donated equipment to States to enable them to better detect nuclear and other radioactive material which is not under regulatory control. I firmly believe that the world is more secure as a result of these efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

Last year, at the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, I made my own Nagasaki Commitment to work for a world free of all nuclear weapons. There were four elements to that commitment.

First, the IAEA can play a role in nuclear disarmament through verification - for example, helping to build confidence by verifying independently that nuclear materials from dismantled weapons will not be used again for military purposes. Not long after my speech in Nagasaki, the Agency received a request from the Russian Federation and the United States of America to undertake a verification role under their agreement concerning the management and disposition of plutonium no longer required for defence purposes.

Second, the IAEA will support the creation of new Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and continue to help in implementing such Zones. These already cover vast regions of the world. I am consulting with IAEA Member States on the possibility of convening a forum on the relevance of the experience of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East. I hope it may be possible to hold such a forum in Vienna this year.

Third, the Agency's safeguards inspectors will continue to work around the globe to check that nuclear materials from civilian nuclear programmes are not diverted to nuclear weapons.

Fourth, IAEA security experts will redouble efforts to work with countries to help prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorist groups. The nuclear threat does not only exist at the level of nation states.

I believe with all my heart and soul that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. Today, I renew my commitment to the goals I outlined at Nagasaki last year.

Mr. Chairman,

The IAEA's work in making nuclear techniques available 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 the issue of cancer in developing countries a high priority for my first year in office because I wanted to ensure that these countries derive maximum benefit from the IAEA's expertise in nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. Cancer was once considered a disease of rich countries, but it has now reached epidemic proportions in the developing world. Since 1980, the IAEA has delivered an extensive programme of cancer-related assistance to developing countries. This has involved establishing and upgrading radiotherapy and oncology centres and providing training for medical and technical staff.

This year, we are placing a particular emphasis on nuclear techniques for water. This encompasses three important areas of the Agency's work: water resources assessment, agricultural water management, and aquatic pollution control. Nearly a billion people still lack access to adequate drinking water. The Agency helps countries to undertake comprehensive assessments of water resources by making available unique information provided through the techniques of isotope hydrology. The IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco make isotopic techniques available to help track phenomena such as ocean acidification and improve understanding of climate change.

Mr. Chairman,

Many of the challenges which the IAEA faces today are very different from those envisaged by our founders more than 50 years ago. Today, it is not the risk of the most industrialised countries developing nuclear weapons that preoccupies the international community. Concern is focused instead on countries such as North Korea, which, contrary to its non-proliferation commitments, has developed nuclear weapons, and Iran, which is not fully implementing its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the Agency and other obligations. For decades, nuclear power generation was the preserve of developed countries. Today, many developing countries are considering launching nuclear power programmes. The possibility of nuclear terrorism was simply not an issue in the 1950s. Today, it is high on the agenda of world leaders.

Despite these changes, the Agency's "Atoms for Peace" mandate - making the benefits of nuclear science and technology available for peaceful, but not military, purposes - remains valid. My goal as Director General is to help our Member States to use nuclear techniques to meet the challenges they face in many areas in the 21st century. In working towards that goal, I look forward to deepening and strengthening our cooperation with all the States and organizations represented in this room.

Thank you.

Last update: 21 October 2014