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IAEA LEU Bank Storage Facility to Open in August, Scientific Forum to Discuss Nuclear Techniques in Health Care: Director General

IAEA Board of Governors June 2017 Meeting. (Video: J.Weilguny/IAEA)

A new IAEA storage facility for low enriched uranium (LEU) in Kazakhstan will be formally inaugurated on 29 August, Director General Yukiya Amano told a regular meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors today. 

This will serve as a last-resort mechanism to provide confidence to countries interested in using nuclear power that they will be able to obtain LEU for the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants in the event of an unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies.

“Construction of the LEU Storage Facility by Kazakhstan is proceeding on schedule,” Mr Amano said.

He also announced that the 2017 IAEA Scientific Forum in September will focus on the use of nuclear techniques in health care and reported excellent progress in work to modernise the IAEA’s nuclear science laboratories.

Technical cooperation

Mr Amano noted that the IAEA had recently held its first ever International Conference on the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme.

“The event was a valuable opportunity to make Member States and global development partners more aware of the work of the Agency,” he said.

The main focus of technical cooperation spending last year was on health and nutrition, nuclear safety and food and agriculture. The IAEA had helped Fiji to establish its first cancer centre and Sri Lanka to offer radioisotope-based therapy to patients with cancer or arthritis.

Support for many food and agriculture projects in Africa had continued, while in Europe, the Agency helped Member States to strengthen nuclear safety and improve their regulatory infrastructure.

In Latin America, the IAEA provided immediate emergency assistance in response to the Zika virus outbreak in 2016. “This ability to respond quickly to crises is an important strength,” Mr Amano said.

The IAEA support had made it possible for food safety experts in Panama to analyse pesticides in crops, while laboratories in Costa Rica had received assistance in identifying chemical contaminants and residues in animal products.

Nuclear applications

Mr Amano highlighted important recent events in nuclear sciences and applications, including the IAEA’s first International Conference on Applications of Radiation Science and Technology and the third FAO/IAEA International Conference on Area-wide Management of Insect Pests.

Mr Amano reported that the construction work at the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, was proceeding on schedule and on budget. He thanked all Member States that have made contributions to the modernisation project and strongly encouraged all countries in a position to provide further financial support to do so. Some 870,000 euros are required before the end of June and another 4.7 million euros by September in order to ensure the timely construction of the new Animal Production and Health Laboratory, he said. (See Mr Amano's remarks on the laboratories renovation project.)

Nuclear safety and security

Mr Amano noted active participation at the recent 7th Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, with 79 of the 80 Parties submitting reports. “This underlines the commitment of Parties to global nuclear safety,” he said. He encouraged all countries that have not yet done so to join the Convention.

The draft IAEA Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2021 will be submitted to the September meeting of the Board of Governors after close consultation with Member States.

Nuclear energy

Mr Amano noted growing global interest in nuclear power.

“Installed nuclear capacity is now the highest that it has ever been at 392 gigawatts electrical,” he said. “Twenty new reactors were connected to the grid in the last two years, the highest number since the 1980s.”

There are now 449 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries. Sixty more are being built around the world, mostly in Asia. (See Mr Amano's remarks on nuclear energy.)

Mr Amano encouraged all countries to be represented at ministerial level at the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, starting on October 30th in Abu Dhabi.

Nuclear verification

Mr Amano informed the Board that the IAEA continues to verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of all its nuclear-related commitments, as set out in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in an impartial and objective manner. (See Mr Amano's remarks on Iran.)

Introducing the 2016 Safeguards Implementation Report, which details the IAEA’s work in implementing safeguards in the 181 States with safeguards agreements in force, he noted that the amount of nuclear material under IAEA safeguards continues to increase.

Mr Amano again expressed concern about the nuclear programme of North Korea. (See Mr Amano's remarks on DPRK.)

“It is deeply regrettable that the DPRK continues to show no sign that it is willing to comply with relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” he said. “I again call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under those resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency, and to resolve all outstanding issues, including those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country.”