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IAEA and Atoms for Peace in the 21st Century

Oslo, Norway
Oslo Military Society/Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a great pleasure for me to visit Norway. I have especially fond memories of coming to Oslo in December 2005 to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I was then Chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors and Ambassador of Japan. Today, I come to you as Director General of the IAEA, a post I have had the honour to hold for just over four years.

Norway was a founding member of the Agency in 1957 and has been active in all areas of our work since then. I am very grateful for the strong support, both moral and practical, which Norway has constantly provided.

I imagine that this audience at the Oslo Military Society and the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies will be mainly interested in learning about the IAEA's work in nuclear non-proliferation.

Before I talk about that, I would like to mention briefly some of the other main areas of our work.

Our mandate has been summarised as Atoms for Peace. Our role is to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to make nuclear science and technology available for peaceful purposes, especially to developing countries.

Nuclear power is the best known peaceful application of nuclear technology. The use of nuclear power continues to grow throughout the world despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident three years ago.

The IAEA does not encourage countries to use nuclear power, nor do we try to discourage them. It is up to each sovereign state to make its own decision. However, many countries believe nuclear power can help them achieve energy security, boost their economic competitiveness and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The IAEA works closely with the 30 countries which already have nuclear power programmes, and with those planning to build their first reactors, to help them use nuclear power safely and securely.

In recent years, we have been active in helping Japan deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and improving global safety standards. The goal is to do everything humanly possible to prevent accidents at nuclear facilities, and to minimise the consequences if an accident should occur.

I have seen for myself the considerable efforts being made at nuclear power plants all over the world to improve safety. For example, higher protective walls have been built to guard against floods and tsunamis, and extra backup sources of power and water have been put in place.

In recent years, world leaders have also paid increasing attention to the need to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the wrong hands.

You can imagine how devastating the consequences would be if a dirty bomb - involving conventional explosives and radioactive material - was detonated in a major city.

The IAEA plays a central role in strengthening nuclear security. We help countries to properly protect nuclear and other radioactive materials, as well as the nuclear facilities in which they are housed.

Our work covers a broad range of activities, from supplying radiation detection equipment for countries to use at ports and airports and providing specialist training, to helping protect major public events against nuclear terrorism.

Last month, I attended the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, at which leaders from over 50 countries pledged to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear security. They reconfirmed their strong support for the IAEA's central role.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a scientific and technical organization, the IAEA makes an important contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Through our technical cooperation programme, we help to make peaceful nuclear technology available to developing countries in areas as diverse as cancer control, nutrition, the eradication of the tsetse fly, and combating environmental pollution.

Let me highlight just two of those examples.

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

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.

Another example: tsetse flies infest vast areas of Africa. They transmit a parasitic disease which devastates livestock herds and spreads "sleeping sickness" among human beings.

The IAEA deploys what is known as the sterile insect technique, which is essentially a form of contraception for tsetse flies. Male flies are sterilised using radiation. They are then released into affected areas, where they mate with females in the wild. These do not produce offspring.

This technique can eventually eradicate entire populations of tsetse flies, as happened in Zanzibar in 1999.

So, as you see, we are much more than the "nuclear watchdog" which the media like to write about.

But a core IAEA function is, indeed, to verify that countries are not working to acquire nuclear weapons. We do this by implementing safeguards.

Our inspectors are constantly on the road, visiting nuclear facilities all over the world. As well as carrying out on-the-spot inspections, they bring back samples which are analysed at our specialist laboratories near Vienna for possible traces of nuclear material. These laboratories are presently being modernised, with extra-budgetary contributions from Norway and a number of other countries, which I greatly appreciate.

The IAEA is a technical organization, not a political one. But we operate in a highly political environment and our work can have important political implications.

The main verification issue on our agenda in recent years has been Iran.

For years, my quarterly reports to our Board of Governors stated that nuclear material declared by Iran was not being diverted from peaceful purposes. But I also stated that Iran was not providing sufficient cooperation to enable the Agency to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran was in peaceful activities.

Late last year, we started to see some movement.

In November, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States agreed on a Joint Plan of Action with Iran.

The Plan is aimed at achieving "a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful."

The seven countries asked the IAEA to undertake monitoring and verification of voluntary measures to be implemented by Iran, which we are now doing.

Separately, the IAEA agreed on a Framework for Cooperation with Iran under which Iran agreed to implement six practical measures within three months. Iran implemented them as planned.

In February, the Agency and Iran agreed on the next seven practical measures, which are to be implemented by 15 May.

As I told our Board last month, the measures implemented by Iran, and the further commitments it has undertaken, represent a positive step forward. But much remains to be done to resolve all outstanding issues.

In particular, clarification of all issues related to possible military dimensions, and implementation by Iran of its Additional Protocol, are essential for the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There has, regrettably, been no movement on another key non-proliferation issue which is undoubtedly of interest to this audience - North Korea's nuclear programme.

It is five years this month since Agency inspectors were asked to leave North Korea. Nevertheless, the Agency maintains its readiness to play an essential role in verifying North Korea's nuclear programme.

I continue to call upon North Korea to comply fully with its obligations and to cooperate fully with the Agency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

That concludes my overview of the work of the IAEA. I will stop here and will be happy to take your questions.

Thank you.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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