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DDG Bychkov on Atoms for Peace, energy, climate change, safety, sustainability

Alexander Bychkov, IAEA Deputy Director General and
Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy.
(Photo: A.Evrensel/IAEA)

Alexander Bychkov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, delivered the following speech during the Gala Dinner of the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting, held on 11 November 2013 in Washington, D.C.:

Ladies and Gentlemen! Honourable Guests!

I am honoured to be here with this great audience and to represent the International Atomic Energy Agency. You all know; we are commemorating two historical landmarks: Nuclear fission was achieved 75 years ago... And President Eisenhower gave his famous Atoms for Peace speech 60 years ago... I am not a history professor, but please allow me to highlight a few points from the IAEA’s perspective.

I will start by quoting from our Statute, which came into force in 1957. Article 2 says: “The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.”

And now, let’s make a flashback to four years before that. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, addressing the UN General Assembly in 1953, talked at length about establishing an international atomic energy agency.

“The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.”

In other words, the writers of the IAEA’s statute stayed quite loyal to President Eisenhower’s initial thoughts. If we think of the political and military situation of the time, this was indeed a huge achievement of the founding countries to have established this Agency, for which I proudly work, for four years now.

These goals were also duly recognized just before the Agency turned 50. I said I am proud to work for the Agency, but it is not only me: We are 2,300 colleagues who are proud to work for an organisation which has received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. The reasoning of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize, in two equal parts, to the IAEA and its then-Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, was more than encouraging: “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes, and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.”

As you see, peace, health, prosperity are key words in everything about us. But how do you reach prosperity? Really, how do you prosper without energy?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s vision for Sustainable Energy for All has an answer to that. He says: “All energy sources and technologies have roles to play in achieving universal access in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable fashion.”

As we speak here, thousands of delegates are gathered in the Polish capital Warsaw to discuss the future of our planet, focussing on Climate Change and its impacts.

Just last week, we have released our annual analysis of the role of nuclear power in mitigating climate change. In it, and in short, we say that “nuclear power belongs to the range of energy sources and technologies available today that could help meet the climate–energy challenge.”

The challenge is real, the challenge is clear, the challenge is present: Too many people around the world are not as lucky as us, here. 1.3 billion people have NO access to energy, in any form whatsoever. One billion have NO access to health care, simply because of energy poverty.

Now, what is the solution we offer? The IAEA is the global hub for cooperation in things nuclear. Whether to introduce or expand the share of nuclear power in a national energy portfolio obviously is a sovereign decision. But we help those, who wish to do so, to do it safely, securely, peacefully, and of course, sustainably. In short: We help countries make knowledgeable, informed, science-based decisions, from early considerations of nuclear power, all the way to waste, decommissioning, environmental remediation.

In June this year, an IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century came up with an important message: For many countries, nuclear power will play an important role in achieving energy security and sustainable development goals.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima are now household names, even for the layperson. And the Agency works extensively, guided by its Member States, to increase both safety and efficiency. As our Director General, Yukiya Amano, said recently: “Our long-term goal must be to ensure that an ever-more robust nuclear safety culture puts down deep roots throughout the world.”

Nuclear power’s future depends on the highest levels of safety that Member States have to ensure, and the IAEA stands ready to help through everything it has in its toolbox: standards, guidance, education & training, peer review missions, and many more.

Before I yield the floor, let me thank again the US Government, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US utilities and everyone involved in the civilian nuclear sector here, for their continued support to the IAEA. Your expertise is invaluable for the Agency’s work.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you every success in this ANS Winter Meeting. Thank you.

Last update: Dec 9, 2013 12:24:06 PM