Statement to Conference for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World

Astana, Kazakhstan

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. President, Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address this Conference for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World.

Astana is a highly appropriate venue for this Conference. Kazakhstan has made a very important contribution to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan renounced the nuclear weapons which it inherited from the Soviet Union and closed the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, where over 450 underground and atmospheric nuclear tests had been conducted. It joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon State and has concluded both a safeguards agreement and an additional protocol with the IAEA. I will have more to say about these instruments in a moment.

Kazakhstan played a significant role in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia in 2009. The treaty creating this nuclear-weapon-free zone established an important precedent as it is the only arms control treaty to date that requires its parties to bring into force an additional protocol to their IAEA safeguards agreements. The treaty, which was supported by the IAEA, forbids the development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition or possession of any nuclear explosive device within the zone. Peaceful uses of nuclear energy are permitted if placed under enhanced IAEA safeguards. The treaty also requires Parties to meet international standards regarding security of nuclear facilities. This is intended to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and prevent smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials in the region.

Today, the scientific and technical facilities at Semipalatinsk are being converted to peaceful uses under the jurisdiction of the National Nuclear Centre of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The IAEA is pleased to have assisted in this work.

Shutting down the nuclear test range at Semipalatinsk sends a strong signal of support for the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. It contributes both directly and symbolically to the goals of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and underscores the principles of the NPT. By constraining the further development of nuclear weapons, these measures to bring nuclear tests to a halt and to bring the test sites to closure are important steps towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

More recently, Kazakhstan has offered to provide a location for an IAEA low enriched uranium bank. I am grateful to the Government of Kazakhstan for its offer.

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 main contribution to achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Non-Nuclear-Weapon States party to the NPT are required to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency, under which we conduct regular inspections of their nuclear material and activities. The additional protocol to these safeguards agreements, as I mentioned earlier, 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, 110 countries have brought additional protocols into force.

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. Last year, the Agency was asked by the Russian Federation and the United States to independently verify implementation of their agreement on the disposition of plutonium no longer required for defence purposes. Agency experts have been working with both countries on a draft agreement and good progress has been made. It will represent a unique example of transparency in this field.

Second, the IAEA will support the creation of new Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and help to implement them. These already cover vast regions of the world, including Central Asia. Next month, I will host a forum in Vienna on the relevance of the experience of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East.

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.

Mr. Chairman,

As a human being, as Director General of the IAEA - and not least as a citizen of the only country ever to experience the unspeakable horror of nuclear bombs - I believe with all my heart and soul that these horrific weapons must be eliminated.

Achieving that goal will require continued global efforts to increase awareness and understanding of the vital importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

I am confident that your Conference will make an important contribution to that goal and wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

Last update: 21 October 2014