The IAEA has reached the funding target for the first phase of the modernization of its nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, and construction of the first building has begun, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the Agency’s Board of Governors today.
In his opening statement to a regular meeting of the Board, he highlighted the IAEA’s recent activities in various areas, including nuclear applications, nuclear safety and security, safeguards and technical cooperation.
Mr Amano announced that the construction of the new Insect Pest Control Laboratory under the €31-million project known as ReNuAL has now begun. The construction of another facility, the Flexible Modular Laboratory, will commence soon.
“A total of 64 Member States made contributions to ReNuAL. I am deeply grateful to all of them,” he said.
Mr Amano also emphasized the importance of securing global supplies of essential radiopharmaceuticals used in medical treatment. He noted that Australia’s new ANSTO nuclear medicine production facility and France’s Jules Horowitz Reactor, both of which he visited recently, will contribute to increased production of radiopharmaceuticals.
Mr Amano stressed the role of the IAEA in responding quickly to emergencies in Member States.
In response to the Zika virus, which has been confirmed in 70 countries, the IAEA has recently trained scientists from Member States in the use of a nuclear technique known as RT-PCR to help in the rapid diagnosis of the disease.
“It remains one of the most effective methods of rapid virus detection,” he said. “We provided diagnostic equipment and materials to seven countries in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as to the Marshall Islands.”
Mr Amano also highlighted the IAEA’s work in responding to Lumpy Skin Disease, which mainly affects cattle. It made the RT-PCR technique available to a number of European countries.
In the area of food security, Mr Amano noted significant success in the development of new food crops which are adaptable to a changing climate. In Asia and the Pacific, 28 new crop varieties have been developed using nuclear techniques and released to farmers.
Turning to nuclear energy, Mr. Amano said there were 450 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries and 60 reactors under construction.
The latest IAEA projections show nuclear power either maintaining its contribution to the global energy mix at current levels by 2030, or growing significantly.
Many countries see nuclear power as a low-energy source with significant potential to mitigate climate change. “It can assist Member States in meeting their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” the Director General said.
The IAEA assists countries interested in introducing nuclear power in establishing the necessary infrastructure.
Mr Amano stressed the importance of learning and acting upon the lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, referring to the report on Measures to Strengthen International Cooperation in Nuclear, Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, which provides an update on the IAEA’s work in these areas.
In the future, the IAEA will work to strengthen nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety in a more comprehensive manner.
“We will focus more on safety aspects of issues such as extending the operating life of nuclear power plants, decommissioning, the disposal of high level radioactive waste, innovative technologies such as fast reactors and small and medium sized reactors, and the safety of radiation sources used in non-power applications,” he added.
Mr Amano strongly encouraged all Member States to participate at ministerial level in the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions in Vienna from December 5th to 9th.
“This conference is taking place at an important time for global nuclear security,” he said. “The outcome of the conference will also provide a solid basis for the Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2021, which we will develop in close consultation with Member States.”
The entry into force in May this year of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material demonstrated the commitment of the international community to act together to strengthen nuclear security, he added.
Verification and Monitoring in Iran
The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran continue.
The number of States with nuclear safeguards agreements in force stands at 182, and 128 States have brought additional protocols into force, Mr Amano said. He urged all States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which have not yet brought comprehensive safeguards agreements into force to do so without delay. He also expressed his hope that States that have not yet concluded additional protocols will do so as soon as possible.
Commenting on the nuclear test carried out by North Korea earlier this month, Mr Amano called the move “deeply troubling and regrettable.” He said the IAEA continues to monitor developments in the country’s nuclear programme, including through satellite imagery.
“The DPRK should cooperate promptly with the Agency and resolve all outstanding issues, including those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country,” he said.