Verification and monitoring work in Iran and the renovation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories will be among the key activities for the Agency this year, Director General Yukiya Amano said in his introductory statement to the IAEA Board of Governors today.
He congratulated Turkmenistan on becoming the 168th Member State of the IAEA, and spoke about issues relating to nuclear safety and security, nuclear energy, nuclear applications and nuclear verification.
Nuclear safety and security
Mr Amano began by noting that the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan would occur this week, while the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union would be in April.
“The immense human impact of these events should not be forgotten,” he said. “There is widespread recognition that everything humanly possible must be done to ensure that no such accident ever happens again.”
The IAEA’s Nuclear Safety Review 2016 showed that progress continued to be made in strengthening nuclear safety.
Mr Amano encouraged Member States to contribute to increased global nuclear safety and security by adhering to the relevant international conventions.
Noting that 2016 would be an important year for nuclear security, he invited countries to attend the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security in December at the ministerial level. The conference “will be a very important event which will help to set the agenda for our work in the next few years, underlining the Agency’s role as the global platform for improving nuclear security.”
A number of countries show continued interest in introducing nuclear power. There are presently 442 nuclear power reactors in operation throughout the world, while 66 power reactors are under construction, two-thirds of them in Asia.
He also said that the IAEA is continuing to assist Member States in moving away from the use of high enriched uranium (HEU) in research reactors in favour of low enriched uranium. The IAEA recently helped Jamaica and Georgia with the repatriation of HEU fuel, making the countries HEU-free.
Mr Amano said the IAEA had acted quickly to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean respond to the outbreak of the Zika virus. It is providing portable equipment that will allow for rapid detection of the virus in the field and is helping countries use the sterile insect technique against the Aedes mosquito that can transmit the Zika virus.
The IAEA nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna play a vital role in research and in transferring technology such as the sterile insect technique to Member States, but are in urgent need of modernization. “Without full renovation of the laboratories, our capacity to respond to Member States’ request for assistance, on Zika and in other areas, will be significantly limited.”
Mr Amano appealed to all Member States to contribute to the renovation of the laboratories.
In connection with the IAEA Technical Cooperation programme, Mr Amano noted that “in light of Security Council resolution 2231, Iran is now invited to participate in the full range of Agency activities.”
Mr Amano announced the establishment of a new Office of Safeguards Verification in Iran in the Department of Safeguards to carry out verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been implemented as of 16 January 2016.
Describing the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as “a major cause for concern,” he urged the DPRK to fully implement all relevant IAEA and Security Council resolutions. “The Agency remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue by resuming its verification activities once a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”