Statement to Nuclear Power Forum

Manila, Philippines

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to address this opening session of the Nuclear Power Forum Philippines. The Philippines is a very active member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, working closely with us across a broad range of activities. It also plays an important role at the global level, for example by chairing the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons earlier this year.

The IAEA´s primary objective is to bring the benefits of nuclear science and technology to all humankind, while minimizing their risks. We help our Member States to meet their energy needs, use nuclear techniques in many areas for peaceful purposes and work for nuclear non-proliferation.

Nuclear power is enjoying growing acceptance in many countries as a stable and clean source of energy that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change. More than 60 countries are considering introducing nuclear energy. The IAEA´s projections are that between 10 and 25 new countries are likely to bring their first reactors 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.

The growing attractiveness of nuclear power is due to a number of factors. They include its very low greenhouse gas emissions; surging global energy demand; its strong and lengthening performance and safety record, which now totals more than 14 000 reactor-years; and concerns about energy security.

I firmly believe that access to nuclear power should not be limited to the developed countries. It should also be available to developing countries. The Agency is well-placed to help. We now have projects on introducing nuclear power with fifty-eight of our Member States, 17 of whom are actively preparing nuclear power programmes.

So what is the role of the IAEA? The Agency seeks to provide objective and comparative information and advice to interested Member States. Our advice has the advantage of being comprehensive and impartial.

To start with, countries considering the introduction of nuclear power seek the Agency´s assistance in analyzing their options and choosing the best energy mix. Once a country makes the decision to include nuclear power in its energy mix, the Agency helps to make sure that this is done sustainably and profitably. It also needs to be done responsibly, ensuring safety and security, and exclusively for peaceful purposes. The Agency tries to impress upon interested countries that it is necessary to plan properly, to build the required human resources and infrastructure and to follow international safety, security and non-proliferation norms.

The IAEA has developed guidelines and milestones to help countries work in a systematic manner towards the introduction of nuclear power. Use of the milestones can increase transparency both within a country introducing nuclear power, and between it and other States.

The process starts with a country thoroughly researching all aspects of building a nuclear power programme so it is ready to make a knowledgeable and long term commitment to proceed. It then undertakes the infrastructure preparatory work for the construction of a nuclear power plant and gets ready to invite bids. The final phase is when a country is ready to commission and operate its first nuclear power plant.

This sounds simple and straightforward, but in practice the whole process can take many years. There are no short-cuts. But the IAEA is there to help at every stage. We assist interested countries with everything from planning their nuclear energy policy and drafting their nuclear legislation to establishing independent regulatory bodies and providing training for regulators and operators.

In the case of the Philippines, the IAEA has provided assistance in strengthening the country´s capabilities in nuclear science and technology and energy planning. We also provided advice on developing a Human Resource Development Plan for Nuclear Energy.

For nuclear power to remain viable as a source of energy, it is vital that concerns regarding safety and security are addressed. Safety and security are primarily the responsibility of each sovereign state. However, the IAEA has a strong role to play, because an accident or malicious act may have far-reaching and cross-border consequences.

There has been a very significant improvement in the efficient and safe performance of the nuclear industry in the past two decades. This reflects factors including improved design, better operating procedures, a strengthened and more effective regulatory environment and the emergence of a strong safety culture.

The IAEA promotes an integrated approach to nuclear safety, focusing on management systems, effective leadership and safety culture. It is important that countries´ safety and security infrastructures keep pace with developments in all areas of nuclear science and technology. We must never be complacent.

The Agency helps countries to reduce the risk of terrorists obtaining nuclear or radioactive material and to prevent sabotage at nuclear facilities. IAEA support covers all aspects of nuclear security, from physical protection at facilities to radiation detection and response. We helped to protect against possible nuclear attacks at the World Cup in South Africa this year and at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

The Agency is also an objective and reliable source of information for the public and for experts. I believe there is more we can do in this area, particularly for nuclear waste. Nuclear waste disposal is often a high-profile issue in both countries with established nuclear power programmes and in countries introducing nuclear power.

Many people are unaware that the world has more than a half century of experience of successfully dealing with nuclear waste. The performance and safety records in this area are good and there is much knowledge and well-developed waste management capabilities that can be shared around the world. Low and intermediate level waste management (including disposal) is now well established in industrial practice.

For high-level waste, the technology for deep geological disposal already exists. Two countries, Finland and Sweden, have completed thorough site selection exercises, in each case with broad support from the local population and from the country as a whole. The Agency has established networks for sharing such experience and can help make sure this information is better known and more widely spread.

For those responsible for managing waste we offer guidance documents, planning assistance, training and peer reviews to help build capabilities. One important focus is ensuring involvement of the public and other stakeholders in planning and decision-making for waste. My intention is that the Agency should expand its activities in waste disposal.

The IAEA also works as a catalyst for innovation in nuclear energy. I take a keen interest in research and development which will maximize energy efficiency, reduce risks to the environment and ease the burden on future generations of having to deal with nuclear waste. I look forward to the development of new nuclear technologies which can generate electricity at competitive prices, with improved safety and reduced construction times and operating costs.

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.

Mr. Chairman,

I am confident that nuclear energy has a very promising future. Its importance looks certain to grow in the coming decades as more and more countries add it to their energy mix. Continued technological innovation will improve the attractiveness of nuclear power.

The IAEA will continue to play its part in helping to make the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology available to all humankind.

Last update: 21 October 2014