United Nations Headquarters — The IAEA plays an important role in activities under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), even though it is not a party to the landmark pact that took effect 45 years ago, Director General Yukiya Amano said at the opening of the 2015 NPT Review Conference today.
"The Agency and the NPT have a common goal, which is to ensure that humanity derives maximum benefit from the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology," Mr Amano told government ministers and other senior officials on the first day of the four week-long conference at United Nations headquarters in New York.
In his overview of significant developments in the IAEA's work since the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, Mr Amano highlighted IAEA efforts to foster development with the help of nuclear technology, strengthen safety at nuclear power plants, and prevent nuclear terrorism and the diversion of radioactive material for military use.
"The impact of our work in the daily lives of millions of people around the world is extraordinary and deserves to be better known," he said. "I believe that nuclear science and technology have much to contribute to development, in areas such as human health, agriculture and water management, as well as in energy."
To help fund such activities, the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative has helped to raise over 60 million euros for projects that benefit more than 130 countries, he said.
The NPT, which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, requires that review conferences be held every five years. Regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, it was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to further the goal of nuclear disarmament, and to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy — the Treaty's so-called three pillars.
Director General Amano said IAEA safeguards — which aim to ensure that there is no misuse of nuclear material for military purposes — play an indispensable role in the implementation of the NPT.
"Today, the Agency applies safeguards to more than 1,250 facilities in 180 States. That is 100 facilities more than at the time of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Last year, our inspectors spent nearly 13,000 calendar-days in the field," he said.
"Since the last Review Conference, we have completely modernized our analytical laboratories and greatly enhanced our ability to analyse nuclear material and environmental samples."
The IAEA will continue to do its best to assist with the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, Mr Amano told the gathering.
On the issue of security, he said the threat of nuclear terrorism remains real. But the IAEA is well placed "to continue playing the central role in helping the world to act in unison against that threat."
He added: "Demand for our services is growing steadily. We provide nuclear security training to thousands of people every year. We help countries to improve the physical security of facilities at which nuclear materials are held."
Nuclear energy and safety
The most important development in the nuclear energy field in the past five years was the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011, Mr Amano said. Major efforts had been made since then to enhance nuclear safety throughout the world. "I see considerable improvements in safety at every nuclear power plant I visit."
The IAEA is finalising a report on the Fukushima accident, to provide an authoritative and detailed account of what went wrong, and why, in order to help improve nuclear safety worldwide.
Despite the accident, IAEA projections show that use of nuclear power will increase in the coming decades. "Many countries see nuclear power as a stable and clean source of energy, which can improve energy security and help to mitigate the impact of climate change," Mr Amano said.
The impact of our work in the daily lives of millions of people around the world is extraordinary and deserves to be better known.