You are here

IAEA Director General's Statement at Nuclear Industry Summit

Washington D.C. USA

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery) 

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to address the 2016 Nuclear Industry Summit. I thank Mr Fertel and the Nuclear Energy Institute for organising this important event.

I understand that the three main subjects on your agenda are: managing cyber threats; securing the use, storage and transport of radiological and nuclear materials; and the role of the nuclear industry in the world.

As your conference is an official side event of the Nuclear Security Summit, which I am also attending, I will focus my remarks today on the IAEA’s activities in nuclear security.

But, first, let me say a few words about the outlook for the global nuclear industry from the IAEA’s perspective.

A few weeks ago, we marked the fifth anniversary of an event which all of us hope never to see repeated: the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

Despite the accident, global use of nuclear power looks set to continue to grow, although at a slower rate than was previously predicted.

There are now 442 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries. Another 66 are under construction, mostly in Asia.

Many countries believe nuclear power can help them to achieve the twin goals of increasing electricity supply while curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Nuclear power can provide the steady supply of baseload electricity needed to power a modern economy. It is also one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide, when emissions through the entire life cycle are considered.

Considering whether or not to introduce nuclear power is a sovereign decision for each individual country. The IAEA does not seek to influence that decision in any way. But if states decide to proceed with nuclear power, our job is to help them do so safely, securely and sustainably.

We advise on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place. We offer know-how on the construction, commissioning, start-up and safe operation of nuclear reactors.

We establish global nuclear safety standards and security guidance. We offer expert peer review missions to assess the operational safety of nuclear power plants. We can help with the decommissioning of plants at the end of their lifetimes, and with waste disposal.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

Needless to say, safety is the key to the future development of nuclear power.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident was a painful reminder that a terrible accident can happen anywhere, even in a developed industrial country.

I believe the necessary lessons have been learned. Extensive improvements in safety have been put in place all over the world and nuclear power is much safer than it was before the accident.

But this is no reason for complacency. Total and sustained commitment to the principle of “safety first” is a must. Nuclear safety will always be a work in progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will now turn to nuclear security.

As you know, this is primarily a national responsibility. But the IAEA, with 168 Member States, plays the central role in helping the world to act in unison against the global threat of nuclear terrorism.

We provide guidance covering key aspects of nuclear security. We help to make borders more secure by installing radiation monitors at ports and border crossings. We help countries to improve physical protection at nuclear installations and hospitals, so that radioactive material is not stolen. We provide training and equipment to law enforcement personnel to help them identify and intercept illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material.

In June 2015, we hosted the IAEA International Conference on Computer Security in a Nuclear World. I believe this was the largest gathering of experts on this topic to date.

Reports of actual or attempted cyber-attacks are now virtually a daily occurrence. The nuclear industry has not been immune. There have been cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear power plants, and of such facilities being specifically targeted.

Computers play an essential role in all aspects of the management of nuclear facilities, including maintaining physical protection. It is vitally important that all such systems are properly secured against malicious intrusions.

Last year’s conference provided valuable additional insights into the complex area of cyber security. The IAEA continues to do what it can to help governments, organizations, and individuals adapt to evolving technology-driven threats from determined cyber adversaries.

I encourage all countries to make full use of the services of the IAEA in nuclear security. Countries should also ensure that all internationally agreed nuclear security instruments are in force and actually used.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have some positive news on the third major item on your agenda, concerning the use, storage and transport of radiological and nuclear materials.

This is that the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the most important area of unfinished business in global nuclear security, is finally close to entry into force. It has taken more than 10 years.

Why is this so important? For a number of reasons.

The Amendment makes it legally binding for countries to protect nuclear facilities, as well as nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport. It provides for expanded cooperation among countries on locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.

It also requires States to minimise any radiological consequences of sabotage, and to prevent and combat related offences.

So, entry into force would reduce the likelihood of terrorists being able to detonate a radioactive dispersal device, otherwise known as a “dirty bomb.”

It would also reduce the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant that could create a release of radioactivity.

The fact that there has never been a major terrorist attack involving nuclear or other radioactive material should not blind us to the possibility that such an attack could happen.   

The amount of nuclear material in peaceful uses in the world has risen by 70 percent since 1999. It will continue to grow in the coming decades as global use of nuclear power increases.

Nearly 2,800 incidents involving radioactive material going out of regulatory control have been reported to the IAEA by Member States since 1995. 

Only a handful of these incidents involved material that could be used to make a nuclear explosive device. But some of the material that goes missing could be combined with conventional explosives to create a dirty bomb. This could cause deaths and injuries, contaminate a large urban area and lead to mass panic.

This is why the Amendment is so important.

The IAEA has worked hard in the last few years to encourage countries to adhere to the Amendment to the CPPNM and our efforts have been paying off.

Today, adherence by seven countries is needed for entry into force, which I expect to happen within months.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA greatly values our cooperation with the nuclear industry.

I am sure that some of you in this room will have worked with the Agency at some point in your careers, enriching us with your experience and taking a broader international perspective back to your home countries.

As far nuclear security, in particular, is concerned, we could not do our jobs without the innovative systems and equipment which industrial engineers and scientists are constantly developing to enable all of us to counter nuclear terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you a very successful conference and I look forward to learning about the outcome.

I have no doubt that your findings and conclusions will provide important input to the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security, which we will host in Vienna in December.

Thank you. 

Last update: 26 July 2017