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IAEA Director General Provides Updates on Iran, North Korea at Board of Governors Meeting

The IAEA Board of Governors is meeting this week at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Video: Alejandra Silva, Josef Weilguny)

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano provided an update on the Agency’s monitoring and verification work in Iran and reported on the establishment of a team focussing on North Korea’s nuclear programme on the opening day of an IAEA Board of Governors meeting on Monday.

Other issues included in Mr Amano’s opening remarks included the inauguration of an IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Bank Storage Facility in Kazakhstan and of a new Insect Pest Control Laboratory at the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna.

Verification and monitoring in Iran

The IAEA has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) since January 2016.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Mr Amano told the 35-nation Board. “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 in Iran remain ongoing.”

“We will continue to implement the Additional Protocol in Iran, including carrying out complementary accesses to sites and other locations, as we do in other countries with additional protocols.” The additional protocol significantly increases the IAEA’s ability to verify the peaceful use of all nuclear materials in States with comprehensive safeguards agreements.

North Korea nuclear test “extremely regrettable”

Mr Amano said a nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on September 3rd was “extremely regrettable.”

“This new test, the sixth and largest since 2006, is in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community,” he said. “The continuation and further development of the nuclear programme of the DPRK are a cause for grave concern.”

He renewed his call upon the country to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA.

He informed the Board that a DPRK Team had been formed in the Department of Safeguards. “The aim is to enhance our ability to monitor the DPRK’s nuclear programme, maintain updated verification approaches and procedures, remain prepared for the Agency’s possible return to the country, and ensure the availability of appropriate verification technologies and equipment,” he added.

Technical cooperation

Turning to the IAEA technical cooperation programme, Mr Amano cited a successful project to eradicate an outbreak of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the Dominican Republic, using the sterile insect technique, as “an excellent example of how nuclear techniques deliver very tangible benefits” to IAEA Member States.

After the outbreak, important trading partners imposed a ban on imports of products including avocado, citrus fruits and papaya which cost the Dominican Republic an estimated US$ 42 million in 2015 alone, putting thousands of jobs at risk. “Thanks to the eradication efforts, the Dominican Republic declared in July that it is now free of the insect and resumed fruit exports,” Mr Amano said.

In the drought-prone Sahel region of Africa, IAEA support has enabled scientists in 13 countries to use isotopic techniques to assess groundwater in five shared aquifers and basins.

“This has made possible the first broad overview of the region’s groundwater supplies,” Mr Amano said. “The countries concerned previously depended on external consultants to collect and analyse water data. Thanks to IAEA assistance, each participating country is now able to take charge of its own activities.”

Nuclear applications

Mr Amano highlighted the steady progress in the extensive modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf. The new Insect Pest Control Laboratory, which supports Member States with research and practical assistance on controlling pests such as the tsetse fly and the fruit fly, will be inaugurated on September 25th.

Work is also under way on the construction of a linear accelerator facility for the Dosimetry Laboratory, which will assist Member States in providing safe and effective radiotherapy for cancer patients.

Nuclear energy

Mr Amano informed the Board that there are 448 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries and fifty seven reactors are under construction.

He drew attention to his report on International Status and Prospects for Nuclear Power 2017, which shows that many countries expect nuclear power to play an increasingly important role in improving energy security and mitigating climate change.

“Without nuclear power, it will be very difficult to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures this century below two degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he said. The IAEA will hold a Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, starting on 30 October in Abu Dhabi.