Recent developments and current challenges in nuclear energy, nuclear applications, nuclear safety and security, and nuclear verification was the theme of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei´s General Conference opening speech delivered today in Vienna.
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei spoke of the importance of international cooperation in these areas, stressing the significance of values such as dialogue and multilateralism. "With regards to all three pillars of Agency activity – technology, safety and security, and verification – international cooperation is key," he stated.
In the year in which the IAEA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei also said that the Atoms for Peace ideal remains central to Agency´s vision. "Fifty years ago, the IAEA was entrusted with the mission of ensuring that nuclear energy would not become a cause for the destruction of humanity, but rather an engine for peace and prosperity... we should not lose sight of the goals and ideals that have guided the Agency since its inception. They remain as relevant and meaningful today as they were to the founders of the IAEA," he said.
Nuclear Energy. There are three strong factors driving a renewed global interest in nuclear power, Dr. ElBaradei said - the steady growth in energy demand; the increasing concerns about energy security; and the challenge of climate change. This trend, however, points clearly to the urgent need for development of a new, multilateral framework for the nuclear fuel cycle, both the front and the back end, he continued.
Nuclear Applications. The Agency directs much of its scientific activity to peaceful nuclear applications related to health, agriculture, industry, water management and preservation of the environment, he said. Dr. ElBaradei mentioned initiatives such as the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), which so far has secured pledges, grants and donations amounting to $3 million, and the Joint Division established with FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, that has developed thousands of new varieties of food crops released in dozens of countries over the past half century.
Nuclear Verification. Dr. ElBaradei called on all States who have not done so to bring into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol. He also said that as of 17 July, the Agency has been able to verify the DPRK´s shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. "I welcome the return of the DPRK to the verification process. I also welcome the active cooperation the IAEA team has received from the DPRK," he stated.
Regarding the implementation of Agency safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. ElBaradei made four points:
- The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran;
- Iran has provided the Agency with additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long outstanding issues, such as the scope and nature of past plutonium experiments;
- Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence-building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak – "this is regrettable", he commented; and
- While the Agency so far has been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, Iran and the Secretariat agreed last month on a work plan for resolving all outstanding verification issues.
Technical Cooperation. Dr. ElBaradei explained how the Agency´s technical cooperation programme has changed over the past fifty years and the positive trends that have emerged. "Opportunities for cooperative ventures — such as shared multinational management of common underground water aquifers, transborder programmes for the elimination of disease vectors such as insect pests, and jointly owned and managed nuclear power plants — are coming to the drawing board, adding new significance to technical cooperation," he said.
Management of the Agency. Dr. ElBaradei also highlighted the need for adequate resources to ensure effective delivery of the Agency´s programme as mandated by the Statute and as requested by its Member States. "The Agency remains under-funded in many critical areas, a situation which, if it remains unaddressed, will lead to a steady erosion of our ability to perform key functions. This is not a sustainable approach to meeting the Agency’s financial needs," he said.
A New Framework for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Dr. ElBaradei said that the time has come to think of a new framework for the use of nuclear energy: a framework that accounts both for the lessons that have been learned and the current reality.
He explained that this new framework should strive to achieve the following goals:
- Robust technological development and innovation in nuclear power and nuclear applications;
- A new multinational framework for the fuel cycle, both the front and the back end, to assure supply and curb proliferation risk;
- Universal application of comprehensive safeguards and the additional protocol as the standard for nuclear verification;
- Recognition of the linkage between non-proliferation and disarmament and therefore the need for concrete and rapid progress towards nuclear disarmament;
- Robust international security regime, in light of the diverse threats we face;
- An effective and universal nuclear safety regime, a cornerstone for any expansion in the use of nuclear power; and
- Sufficient funding for the Agency to meet its increasing responsibilities in an effective and efficient manner.
Dr. ElBaradei concluded his speech by paying tribute to the Republic of Austria for what he described as ´fifty years of generous hospitality.´ "Throughout our 50 years, Austria has been an exceptionally gracious host," he said.