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The IAEA in the 21st Century

Jakarta, Indonesia
University of Indonesia

Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Indonesia and to visit this distinguished institution. The University of Indonesia has a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence, throughout this region and beyond.

When I was last in Jakarta in October 2011, the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan seven months earlier was uppermost in everyone’s minds.

I will say a few words about that in a moment. But I will be pleased to concentrate today on a much happier subject, which is the great contribution which peaceful nuclear science and technology are making to development throughout the world.

If you follow the international news, you are probably used to seeing the IAEA mentioned almost exclusively in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, or with North Korea.

But our work goes well beyond that. It involves areas such as human and animal health, food production, management of water resources and protection of the environment - and much more.

You might be surprised to learn that, right now, the IAEA is helping a number of African countries deal with the terrible outbreak of EBOLA disease. We have been supplying simple kits which enable doctors and nurses to make rapid diagnosis of the disease.

In 2013, scientists at the IAEA’s laboratories near Vienna helped their counterparts in Member States to detect and identify a deadly form of the H7N9 avian influenza virus, otherwise known as "bird flu."

Last year, residents of the remote Indonesian village of Cikadu, who lost their homes in a terrible landslide, were provided with food that had been irradiated to keep it from spoiling.

The IAEA sponsored work done by Ira Koenari, a food irradiation specialist at the National Nuclear Agency here in Jakarta. Exposure to ionising radiation eliminated microorganisms that could have spoiled the food, without affecting its taste or texture.

These are all examples of the way in which nuclear science and technology help to improve the lives of ordinary people throughout the world. This area of our work has been a high priority for me since I became Director General of the IAEA in 2009.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indonesia was a founding member of the Agency in 1957 and is an important partner in many areas of our activities. We have an active technical cooperation programme here, supporting many peaceful nuclear applications in human health, agriculture, water and other areas.

Rather than try to cover all of these, let me concentrate on human health.

Recent IAEA human health projects in Indonesia have included nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging, dosimetry – which involves ensuring that patients undergoing radiotherapy receive the correct dose - and medical physics.

An expert team from the IAEA Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy visited Indonesia in 2010 to study your national cancer control programme and make recommendations for the future.

I had a chance to visit the Dharmais Cancer Hospital during my last visit and was impressed by the dedication of the doctors and support staff.

Cancer in developing countries has been a particular focus of attention for me during my five years as Director General.

Cancer is reaching epidemic proportions in developing countries, but many lack the resources to deal with it. Several dozen African nations have absolutely no radiotherapy facilities.

This means that many thousands of people die of cancers which could be managed effectively, or even cured, if they lived in countries with the right facilities. This is a great tragedy.

By 2020, it is estimated that over 10 million people will die of cancer around the world each year. 

The IAEA, together with partners such as the World Health Organization, helps to make radiotherapy and related services available to developing countries. We provide training for medical and technical specialists and help them to gain access to modern technology.

We have been working to deploy radiotherapy and nuclear medicine programmes in around 130 low- and middle-income countries.  In the last eight years alone, we sent specialist teams to assess cancer control capacity in over 65 countries.

Strengthening the Agency's cancer control activities will remain a top priority for me. Our work in this field literally saves lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I briefly mentioned the Fukushima Daiichi accident a few moments ago. The situation at the plant itself has been brought under control, but the clean-up and remediation work will take many years.

IAEA Member States have been implementing the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which they agreed on shortly after the accident. I am confident that nuclear facilities all over the world are much safer as a result of the extensive measures that have been taken.

Nevertheless, we must avoid complacency at all costs and we must never take safety for granted.

Despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident, a growing number of countries still plan to introduce nuclear power in the coming decades, in addition to the 30 countries which already have it.

Indonesia's Ambassador to the IAEA informed our General Conference last September that your government was committed to optimising the use of new and renewable energy resources, including the possible use of nuclear energy in the future.

The IAEA has been working very closely with Indonesia in this area and will provide extensive support if the decision is made to press ahead with nuclear power. But that is, of course, a sovereign decision for Indonesia itself. 

Having operated three research reactors for many years, Indonesia already has considerable expertise and a significant nuclear infrastructure.

The Agency's job is to help countries which wish to introduce nuclear power to do it safely, securely and efficiently.

We can help at every stage of the process. We advise on energy planning generally and on selecting appropriate sites for possible nuclear power plants.

We can provide support on construction, safe operation and the eventual decommissioning of plants.

We stress the importance of having a robust and effective regulatory regime. And, above all, we underline the importance of nuclear safety.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident was a painful reminder that a terrible accident can happen anywhere, even in a developed industrial country. The Agency is preparing a detailed report on the accident which will be presented to our Member States this year.

Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power was badly shaken by the Fukushima Daiichi accident. I believe confidence can be restored, provided governments, plant operators and nuclear regulators demonstrate total and visible commitment to the principle of "safety first."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A central IAEA function is to verify that States are fully complying with their non-proliferation obligations and to confirm that nuclear material is being used for peaceful purposes.

Non-Nuclear-Weapon States party to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are required to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency, under which we conduct regular inspections of their nuclear material and activities.

I also encourage countries to conclude an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements. This instrument, introduced in 1997, greatly enhances the IAEA’s verification capability by giving us expanded access to information and to relevant locations.

Indonesia is one of 124 countries which have so far brought additional protocols into force.

This means the Agency is able to draw the so-called "broader conclusion" that all nuclear material in your country has remained in peaceful activities.

Two of the main nuclear verification issues on the Agency’s agenda in recent years have been North Korea and Iran. These are very different cases. What they have in common is the fact that these countries have failed to fully implement their safeguards agreements with the IAEA and other relevant obligations. This makes it very difficult for us to do our job effectively.

I remain seriously concerned about North Korea's nuclear programme. Agency inspectors were required to leave the country in 2009, so our knowledge of developments there is limited. But we are maintaining our readiness to play an essential role in verifying the country's nuclear programme.

As far as Iran is concerned, the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared to us by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.

But we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

2015 will be a significant year for the Iran nuclear issue. The future will depend very much on the outcome of the negotiations between the so-called E3+3 countries - China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States - and Iran.

In addressing the Iran nuclear issue, two things are important. First, with the cooperation of Iran, the Agency needs to clarify issues with possible military dimensions to the satisfaction of Member States. Also, Iran needs to implement the additional protocol so that the Agency can provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

The Agency will continue to play an essential role in the future, including in verifying nuclear-related measures to be implemented by Iran if – as we all hope – a comprehensive agreement is reached between the E3+3 and Iran.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I could talk at much greater length about the fascinating work of the IAEA, but I will stop here.

I hope I have given you a reasonable insight into what we do and I will now be happy to take some questions.

Thank you. 

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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