Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Our agenda for this meeting includes topics related to nuclear safety, technology and verification.

Nuclear Safety and Security

As you can see from the draft Nuclear Safety Review for the Year 2008, we are pleased to report that nuclear safety performance worldwide is steadily improving. But the risk of nuclear accidents or malicious acts can never be eliminated and there can be no room for complacency. Vigilance and continuous improvement are key, both at existing nuclear facilities and at new facilities being planned in a growing number of countries. The drive to introduce, or expand the use of, nuclear power always needs to be matched by a strong commitment to safety and security as indispensable enablers of nuclear technology.

While substantial progress has been made in strengthening nuclear safety and security worldwide, much work remains to be done. For our part, I believe the Agency must focus on improving the Incident and Emergency Centre to enhance our capabilities to respond to a large accident, as well as to provide more effective support for capacity building in Member States, especially for new entrants to nuclear power.

Nuclear Applications

You have before you the Nuclear Technology Review 2009. It highlights ways in which nuclear techniques can make real and lasting contributions to development.

In therapeutic nuclear medicine, progress continues to be made in developing radiopharmaceuticals which kill cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue. Nuclear imaging is playing a growing role in the development of new drugs. Radiotracer tools are being used to measure the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, while isotope techniques are helping to improve freshwater management.

Molybdenum-99
There have been disruptions over the past year in the supplies of a vital medical isotope, molybdenum-99, needed for diagnostic imaging, which had a negative impact on patient services throughout the world. There is an urgent need for enhanced international cooperation to ensure that adequate supplies of this isotope are available for all.

Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy
The Agency´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), now in its fourth year of operation, continues to build partnerships to help combat cancer more effectively in the developing world. We are grateful for continued Member State support for our initiatives in the cancer area. I am pleased to announce that an agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization for a new Joint Programme on Cancer Control will be signed shortly.

Food Security
I reported to the Board in March 2008 that the FAO had served notice of its intention to terminate the FAO/IAEA Joint Division. There have been extensive consultations by the Secretariat with the FAO Secretariat and with the Member States of both organizations, and I trust that the work undertaken by the Joint Division - an excellent early example of "Delivering as One" within the UN System - will be recognized as indispensable by our counterparts in Rome and will continue.

Nuclear Power

2008 was a somewhat paradoxical year for nuclear power. It was the first year since 1955 in which not a single new power reactor came on line, but it also saw construction start on no fewer than ten new reactors, the highest number since 1985, the year before the Chernobyl accident.

As the Nuclear Technology Review shows, expectations for the use of nuclear power continue to rise. Growth targets for nuclear power were raised in China and the Russian Federation. The ending of restrictions on India´s nuclear trade should allow an acceleration of its planned expansion of nuclear power. Asia remains the focus of growth in nuclear power: of the ten construction starts in 2008, eight were in this region.

There were important developments elsewhere as well. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has now received combined licence applications for 26 new reactors, while the Department of Energy submitted a formal application to build and operate the long-planned high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The number of Agency technical cooperation projects on energy planning accelerated this year from 29 to 41 and there were also significant increases in the number of projects on uranium exploration and mining and on introducing nuclear power. Increased interest in Agency assistance from so-called "newcomer" countries is substantial and we have a special responsibility to help them ensure that their nuclear programmes are well designed, well run, safe and secure. In December, we held a successful workshop on methods for newcomers to evaluate their progress in nuclear infrastructure development against the milestones that the Agency published in 2007.

In April, China will host an International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, organized by the Agency with the support of the OECD/NEA. The conference will provide an opportunity to review the status and prospects of nuclear power, including the evolution of technology. It will also offer a forum for many countries considering the potential benefits of adding nuclear power to their energy mix to further assess its viability.

Assurance of Supply
You will recall that, for a number of years, I have been advocating the establishment of multinational mechanisms to assure access for all countries to nuclear fuel and reactor technology, as envisaged in the Statute. In September 2004, I asked an international expert group on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle to consider ways in which the IAEA could facilitate guaranteeing the supply of nuclear fuel. One of the key recommendations of this expert group in February 2005 was to consider the possibility of the Agency becoming the administrator of a fuel bank. The Secretariat subsequently received several proposals concerning assurance of supply and international nuclear fuel centres, which were compiled in my report to the Board of 13 June 2007.

The report described some common themes for assurance of supply of nuclear fuel services and suggested a possible framework for discussion, which included a reserve of low enriched uranium under IAEA control. I am pleased to note important progress on two specific proposals that aim to establish a fuel assurance mechanism with the involvement of the Agency:

First, I have circulated, at the request of the Russian Federation, document GOV/INF/2009/1, which outlines a proposal for a low enriched uranium reserve for the use of Member States that Russia intends to present in detail, in the near future, for your consideration. It provides assured export licences and covers all long term costs. I trust that the Board will positively consider the detailed Russian proposal and give due consideration to other concrete proposals which may be forthcoming.

Second, I can report a positive initial response to the Nuclear Threat Initiative´s offer of $50 million for a low enriched uranium reserve, contingent on contributions of an additional $100 million by others by the end of September 2009 and on the Board choosing to establish such a fuel reserve of last resort under its auspices. To date, with the contributions and pledges made by Norway ($5 million), the USA ($50 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million) and the European Union (€25 million), the international community is quite close to meeting the target of matching contributions specified by the NTI. Once the remaining funding is secured, I intend, with the Board´s agreement, to develop a possible framework for this proposal for the Board´s consideration.

I remain convinced that a multilateral approach has great potential to facilitate the expanded safe and secure use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while reducing the risk of proliferation. The ideal scenario, in my opinion, would be to start with a nuclear fuel bank under IAEA auspices, based on the following principles: 1) that any such mechanism should be non-political, non-discriminatory and available to all States in compliance with their safeguards obligations; 2) that any release of material should be determined by non-political criteria established in advance and applied objectively and consistently; and 3) that no State should be required to give up its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding any parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. The next step would be to agree that all new enrichment and reprocessing activities should be placed exclusively under multilateral control, to be followed by agreement to convert all existing facilities from national to multilateral control.

This is a bold agenda and it is clearly not going to happen overnight. But bold measures, including assurances of nuclear fuel supply and multinationalizing sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, are vital if we are to enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world while curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and eliminating them altogether.

Verification of Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Status of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
You have before you a draft comprehensive safeguards agreement with a modified Small Quantities Protocol for Djibouti, and draft additional protocols for Djibouti, India and the United Arab Emirates. It is encouraging that a number of comprehensive safeguards agreements have recently entered into force, bringing the number of NPT non-nuclear-weapon States without the required safeguards agreement down to 27. This is a positive trend that needs to be maintained. For those NPT States without the required comprehensive safeguards agreements in force, the Agency cannot perform any safeguards activities or draw any safeguards conclusions. I also reiterate my call on all States that have not yet done so to bring into force additional protocols without delay, as these are central to the Agency´s ability to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. To date, additional protocols are in force for 90 States.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea
In the DPRK, the Agency has continued to monitor and verify the shutdown status of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. All of the fuel rods discharged from the 5 MWe reactor remain under Agency containment and surveillance.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
You have before you my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, including all declared low enriched uranium. As the Report states, contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, or its work on heavy water related projects. Nor has Iran implemented the Additional Protocol, which, as with other countries with comprehensive safeguards agreements, is a prerequisite for the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Iran has not permitted the Agency to perform the required design information verification at the IR-40 reactor currently under construction, and it has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part on the early provision of design information.

The Agency regrettably was unable to make any progress on the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran´s nuclear programme because of lack of cooperation by Iran. For the Agency to be able to make progress, Iran needs to provide substantive information and access to relevant documentation, locations and individuals in connection with all of the outstanding issues.

Unless Iran implements the transparency measures and the Additional Protocol, as required by the Security Council, the Agency will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. I again urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date and to unblock this stalemated situation. At the same time, I urge the Member States which have provided information to the Agency to agree to the Agency´s sharing of this information with Iran.

Finally, I am hopeful that the apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue in a way that provides the required assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, while assuring Iran of its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
The Agency has continued its analysis of all information available to it, including from the 23 June 2008 visit to the Dair Alzour site. Further analysis of the environmental samples taken from the Dair Alzour site has been carried out, revealing additional particles of uranium which had been produced as a result of chemical processing. These particles, and those identified as a result of the previous analyses, are of a type not included in Syria´s declared inventory of nuclear material. Syria has stated that the origin of the uranium particles was the missiles used to destroy the building. In response to a letter from the Agency, Israel denied that the uranium particles originated in Israel. The Agency´s current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles.

In a letter dated 15 February 2009, Syria reiterated that the destroyed facility, and the current facility, on the Dair Alzour site were military installations and not involved in any nuclear activities. The letter did not address many of the questions raised by the Agency. Syria´s responses to some of the Agency´s questions were only partial and included information already provided to the Agency.

The Agency expects Syria to provide additional information and supporting documentation about the past use and nature of the building at the Dair Alzour site, and information about procurement activities. Providing additional access to other locations alleged to be related to Dair Alzour would be a welcome sign of Syria´s transparency. Such access, together with the sampling of destroyed and salvaged equipment and debris, is essential for the Agency to complete its assessment. I urge Syria to take these measures at the earliest possible date. I also urge Israel and other States that may possess relevant information - including satellite imagery - to make it available to the Agency and to agree to the Agency´s sharing of such information with Syria.

Programme and Budget

Two weeks ago, you received The Agency´s Draft Programme and Budget 2010-2011. I take this opportunity to emphasize that the proposed substantial increase in the budget was not taken lightly, particularly given the current financial climate. But the risks at hand - resulting, among other things, from years of zero growth policies - mean these critical needs can no longer be postponed. They must be addressed with a sense of urgency.

For example, with nuclear terrorism being the greatest threat to international peace and security, it is imperative that we begin, now, a process of providing adequate regular budget funding for our nuclear safety and security programme - parts of which are currently as much as 95% dependent on insecure extrabudgetary resources.

Increasing demands for energy, and concerns regarding both climate change and security of energy supplies, have led to some 50 countries turning to the Agency for help as they explore the possible introduction of nuclear power programmes. The Agency must have sufficient resources to help these countries to accomplish their objectives and to ensure that any new programmes are implemented with the highest regard for safety and security. And we are, of course, mandated to effectively safeguard the steadily increasing amounts of nuclear material worldwide and respond to the clandestine spread of nuclear technology.

At the same time, calls from Member States for help in meeting basic human needs - in disease treatment, food production and securing supplies of drinking water, for example - have never been more pressing or of a higher priority.

In addition to these operational requirements, the Agency needs to undertake long postponed capital investment in infrastructure and specialized equipment. The deteriorating conditions in our laboratories, for example, threaten both our ability to deliver our programme, as well as our independent analytical capability. And we need a mechanism - a major capital fund - that will facilitate rational planning and responsible resource accumulation for these longer term requirements. Major projects vital for improving the Agency´s efficiency and effectiveness include the ISIS Re-engineering Project (IRP) to upgrade our safeguards data systems and support the new State-level safeguards system. The Agency-wide Information System for Programme Support (AIPS) will also bring greater transparency to our financial and procurement operations.

So, yes - the needs are indeed critical and quite urgent. I therefore urge you to give the 2010-2011 Programme and Budget the earnest consideration that it deserves.

Last update: 11 November 2014