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Director General Yukiya Amano Addresses 57th IAEA General Conference


IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the General Conference. (Photo: K. Nikolic/IAEA)

In his address to the delegates of the 57th IAEA General Conference, Director General Yukiya Amano summarized the IAEA's activities in nuclear power, nuclear safety and security, nuclear applications, technical cooperation and non-proliferation. He stressed that the IAEA works to make nuclear technology available, and which constitutes a unique and lasting contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Some 60 years after U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his historic Atoms for Peace speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the IAEA continues to work hard to bring the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology to all parts of the globe and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The world has changed enormously in the past 60 years," Director General Amano said. "But the Atoms for Peace mission has lost none of its relevance. The Agency has successfully adapted to changing times and the evolving needs of Member States."

"When I took office nearly four years ago, I pledged to pursue the multiple objectives of the IAEA in a balanced manner. My goal has been to ensure that the IAEA is an effective, well managed technical organization, with high ethical standards, that delivers concrete results and makes a real difference to our Member States. It is touching to meet ordinary people - such as farmers, fishermen or cancer patients - whose lives have improved because of the work of the IAEA. This is something we can all take pride in."

Following are key points from the Director General's statement:

Technical Cooperation

"The IAEA gives high priority to assisting developing countries, through its Technical Cooperation programme, in using nuclear technology in areas such as cancer control, food and agriculture, and water management. These issues have been highlighted in the annual Scientific Forums," Director General Yukiya Amano said.

Through the Technical Cooperation programme, the Agency provides support to 125 countries or territories in developing their capacity to use nuclear technology to address development needs. Additionally, the IAEA has been working more closely with other UN specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in order to achieve more effective implementation. The IAEA pays particular attention to training skilled personnel in the use of nuclear technology, and makes increasing use of cost effective e-learning tools.

"Thanks to the Peaceful Uses Initiative, launched in 2010, we are seeing an increase in the resources available for technical cooperation projects," Mr. Amano said. However, the need for assistance is great, and the Director General asked all Member States to pay their contributions to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Fund in full and on time.

Nuclear Applications

"The eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, play an essential role in the IAEA's work," according to the Director General. But they have become "old and rather dilapidated, so we are now planning to modernize them." These plans were supported by the General Conference in 2012 and a detailed strategic plan will be presented for review by Member States early next year.

"We hope to complete the project in 2017 and will be grateful for financial assistance from Member States," Mr. Amano said.

Nuclear Energy

In nuclear power, the IAEA has stepped up assistance to so-called newcomers. In June 2013, an important IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century took place in St Petersburg. The Director General noted that one of the key messages was that, for many countries, nuclear power will play an important role in achieving energy security and sustainable development goals.

Nuclear power is the best known peaceful application of nuclear energy. The Director General said that the IAEA's latest projections show continued growth in global use of nuclear power in the next 20 years, especially in Asia.

The Director General assured delegates that the IAEA will continue to accompany users of nuclear power, both new and experienced, at every stage of their journey. "The IAEA has a unique role in assisting governments, operators and regulators in understanding their international obligations and national responsibilities, as well as in adopting international standards and best practices," said the Director General.

He noted that "the promise of ever safer new technologies, especially small and medium-sized reactors, may expand the possibilities for the use of nuclear power. The Agency will facilitate the exchange of experience and information in these areas, as well as in areas such as waste disposal."

Nuclear Safety

The Director General termed the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011 as a "global wake-up call on nuclear safety" and he noted the unprecedented efforts to strengthen nuclear safety everywhere following the accident. The 2011 General Conference agreed on an ambitious Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which is now being implemented. The Director General noted that the Member States have explicitly recognized the central role of the IAEA in promoting international cooperation in nuclear safety. A comprehensive IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident will be finalized in 2014.

"A strong safety record will be essential for the future of nuclear power," the Director General emphasized. At the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in December 2012, the Conference Co-Presidents stressed that "strengthening nuclear safety is a continuous process and that there should be no complacency in safety matters." The Director General said that message has been well understood.

The Director General also said that the recent leak of contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi is a matter of high priority that needs to be addressed urgently. He stated that the IAEA remains ready to assist Japan and will send a second international peer review mission this autumn to offer further advice. He highlighted the long term goal of all must be "to ensure that an ever more robust nuclear safety culture puts down deep roots throughout the world."

Nuclear Security

Steady progress has been made in strengthening the Agency's activities in nuclear security, in response to the wishes of Member States, Mr. Amano said. In July, the IAEA hosted an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna which was the first such conference at ministerial level, open to all IAEA Member States. Ministers reaffirmed the IAEA's central role in strengthening the global nuclear security framework.

Looking to the future, the Director General said that the IAEA will build on the success of the International Conference on Nuclear Security with the aim of ensuring that all Member States share a common understanding of the threat of nuclear terrorism and the measures needed to address it. He expressed the hope that all IAEA Member States will routinely make full use of Agency services in nuclear security and treat security as a key aspect of their everyday work, alongside nuclear safety and nuclear safeguards.

The Director General drew attention to an important item of unfinished business in nuclear security: the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). "Eight years after its adoption, the Amendment has still not entered into force," he said and called upon all States to adhere to the Amendment so that it will enter into force in the near future.

Nuclear Verification

In nuclear verification, the Director General reiterated the principle upheld by the IAEA "that all countries must fully implement their safeguards obligations, as well as other relevant obligations."

"We have lobbied continuously for more countries to adopt the additional protocol. The number of additional protocols in force has grown steadily and now totals 121,"  Director General Amano said and he expressed the hope that adherence to the additional protocol will become universal.

The Director General called upon "the few non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT which have not concluded comprehensive safeguards agreements to do so without delay," as well as calling upon "States with small quantities protocols that have not yet done so to amend or rescind those protocols."

Noting that a new Clean Laboratory in Seibersdorf was built on schedule and under budget, the Director General reported that the new Nuclear Material Laboratory building has also been completed and the lab should be operational within 18 months, giving the Agency a modern capability for analysis of nuclear samples.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

"We have been unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK since 2009, so our knowledge of the country's nuclear programme is limited," the Director General said. "Nevertheless, the Agency will maintain its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK's nuclear programme. I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in implementing its Safeguards Agreement and to resolve all outstanding issues."

Islamic Republic of Iran

"I report regularly to the Board on safeguards implementation in the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Director General pointed out. "The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. I urge Iran to fully implement its Safeguards Agreement and its other obligations and to engage with the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues."

"Looking ahead, the Agency will maintain an impartial and credible nuclear verification regime as a key contribution to international peace and security," Director General Amano said.

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