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Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

Our agenda for this meeting includes topics related to all areas of Agency activity - technology, safety and security, and verification. In this statement, I will primarily cover developments since the June Board.

Nuclear Technology

You have before you a report covering our efforts to strengthen the Agency’s activities related to nuclear science and technology, involving both nuclear power and non-power applications. Let me mention a few examples.

Plant Mutation and Breeding
For many years, the Agency has been working with Member States on radiation induced mutations for the improvement of major food crops, and we are now seeing important results emerging in the form of commercial crops. Last month in Indonesia, Members of Parliament attended a harvesting ceremony to recognize the positive and sustained economic impact of a new strain of rice with higher yield and better quality, produced using gamma radiation, which has successfully been introduced in 20 Indonesian provinces. We anticipate the release of at least seven additional varieties of rice in the region during the next 3–5 years. A regional technical co-operation (TC) project completed last year has also brought new, valuable mutated germplasm - the basic genetic material for plant breeding - to 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific Region.

Co-ordinated Research Projects
Demand for participation in Agency Co-ordinated Research Projects (CRPs) remains high, as a means of bringing together research institutes in developing and developed Member States to collaborate on topics of interest. Currently, the Agency spends about $6.4 million per year on 132 active CRPs, which cover most aspects of the technical work of the Agency - including cutting edge nuclear techniques related to liver cancer therapy, drug resistance, child health, the development of genetically modified crops for harsh environments, and - as part of recent expanded efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism - research to improve the sensitivity of instruments used to detect illicit trafficking of nuclear material. Participation in a CRP helps Member States to understand the potential of a given nuclear application, and CRP results, such as those from research into new plant strains, often lead to TC project requests.

Nuclear Knowledge Management
It is clear that nuclear power could hold great potential to provide the energy needed for global development while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, even if nuclear power were only to maintain its current 16% share of the world electricity market, it would require the construction of 700 new 1000 MWe reactors by the year 2050. Obviously, this effort cannot take place without the necessary human resources. But whether or not nuclear power witnesses an expansion in the coming decades, it is essential that we preserve nuclear scientific and technical competence for the safe operation and decommissioning of existing facilities, and to be able to continue to make use of nuclear applications that clearly have comparative advantages in many aspects of life.

The launch of the ‘World Nuclear University’ (WNU) last week in London, at the annual symposium of the World Nuclear Association, in which I participated, is in my view a positive development in this regard. The WNU will essentially consist of a global network of established academic institutions and research centres with programmes in nuclear science and engineering. The key objectives of the WNU will be to foster co-operation for mutual benefit among these institutions, and promote a broader appreciation - particularly among students who are about to choose career paths - of the opportunities available in nuclear vocations. The Agency plans to participate in WNU studies to better understand the nuclear education and training needs of Member States, and we will endeavour to maximize the accessibility of WNU courses to students from Member States.

Nuclear, Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety

The safety of nuclear activities around the globe remains a key factor for the future of nuclear technology. It is gratifying to note that nuclear safety continues to improve at power plants worldwide, and that more and more countries are raising their standards of performance in radiation protection. Still, more work needs to be done, and public demands for greater transparency and accountability on safety issues are widely voiced in many countries. The need for a more effective and transparent global nuclear safety regime, therefore, continues to be a high priority.

Recurring Events
The IAEA actively promotes the sharing of operational data and experience among nuclear facilities through its information systems. The nuclear power industry also actively shares operating experience among utilities, and both the IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Operators communicate the lessons learned from international experience through their peer review programmes. But despite continued efforts by the international nuclear community to share lessons learned from events that have occurred in nuclear facilities throughout the world, incidents with similar root causes continue to recur. This has been seen in Member States with both robust and evolving regulatory infrastructures. A focused commitment is needed therefore, to ensure that lessons learned in one country are freely and thoroughly communicated to all countries, and that these lessons are incorporated into the operational practices of all relevant nuclear facilities.

Upgrades to National Radiation Safety Infrastructures
Just last week, an Agency conference in Rabat, Morocco, focused on the progress made in using Agency Model Projects to upgrade national radiation protection infrastructures. While it is clear that the Model Project approach has helped many countries to establish appropriate laws, set up regulatory authorities, and improve radiation protection practices, it also became apparent at the conference that some adjustments must be made to reflect security concerns associated with radioactive sources and other nuclear activities. In particular, Member States have asked for Agency guidance on how to reconcile the need for transparency, in matters of radiation safety, with the need for confidentiality, from a security perspective.

Safety of Transport of Radioactive Material
While the transport of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive material has been conducted for decades successfully and without serious incident, many Member States continue to express concern over the risks involved in maritime transport. As part of the Secretariat’s efforts to promote dialogue among Member States, a widely attended international conference was held in July. There was broad agreement at the conference that the IAEA Transport Regulations continue to provide a sound basis for the transport of radioactive material. Most of the technical issues were successfully addressed during the conference; however, given the complexity of some topics - notably, nuclear liability and communications - not all differences among Member States were resolved. The Agency will continue to promote constructive dialogue on these topics.

International Expert Group on Nuclear Liability
In that context, and in keeping with the objective of fostering a global and effective nuclear liability regime, I have decided to establish an International Expert Group on Nuclear Liability (INLEX). The Group will serve three major functions, namely: to explore and provide expert advice on general issues relating to nuclear liability and the need to develop further the IAEA nuclear liability regime; to promote global adherence to this regime; and to assist Member States in developing and strengthening their national legal frameworks related to nuclear liability.

Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources
The control of radioactive sources continues to be an issue of increasing security concern. These concerns were the focus of a major international conference held here in Vienna in March, on which I reported to the Board in June. The Agency is continuing to assist Member States in efforts to strengthen their source control programmes, and over the past year completed missions to assist Bolivia, Ecuador, Nigeria and the United Republic of Tanzania with the recovery, characterization and securing of radioactive sources seized in illicit trafficking incidents.

One aspect of our assistance involves the provision of guidance. The revised Code of Conduct before you on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, prepared by an open-ended group of experts, takes account of the relevant findings of this year’s conference, and strengthens the security related provisions of the Code of Conduct.

Verification of Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Status of Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols
A comprehensive safeguards agreement for Cuba is before the Board for approval, as well as additional protocols for Cuba and Iceland.

I should note in that context that forty-seven States still have to fulfil their obligations under the NPT to conclude and bring into force safeguards agreements with the Agency. And more than six years after the Board’s approval of the Model Additional Protocol, only 35 States have additional protocols in force, with over 150 States yet to take similar action. This is obviously a very disappointing result so far. As I have mentioned in many contexts, without the necessary authority, the Agency cannot provide the required assurance.

Implementation of Safeguards in the DPRK
The situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to pose a serious and immediate challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

As I have reported repeatedly to the Board, since 1993 the Agency has been unable to implement fully its comprehensive NPT safeguards agreement with the DPRK. The Agency has never been allowed by the DPRK to verify the completeness and correctness of the DPRK’s initial 1992 declaration — specifically, that the DPRK has declared all the nuclear material that is subject to Agency safeguards under its NPT safeguards agreement. From November 1994, the Agency was only allowed to monitor the “freeze” of the DPRK’s graphite moderated reactor and related facilities, in connection with the “Agreed Framework” between the DPRK and the USA. This continued until the end of December 2002, when the Agency’s inspectors were withdrawn at the request of the DPRK. Since that time, the Agency has not performed any verification activities in the DPRK and cannot therefore provide any level of assurance about the non-diversion of nuclear material.

The six-party talks that recently took place in Beijing were clearly a step in the right direction towards a comprehensive resolution of the Korean crisis. I do hope that the dialogue will continue, and I trust that any future settlement will ensure the return of the DPRK to the non-proliferation regime and that the IAEA will be given the necessary authority and resources and be provided with all available information, to be able to fulfil its responsibilities under the NPT in a credible manner. I also hope that the Agency will be consulted at an early stage on verification requirements.

Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions Relating to Iraq
Regarding the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq: as you are aware, as of 17 March 2003, when the Agency withdrew its inspectors and staff from Iraq, the Agency had not found any evidence of the revival of nuclear activities prohibited under Resolutions 687 and 707. However, considering the four-year absence of Agency inspectors from Iraq, the time that was made available for the renewed inspections was not sufficient to permit the Agency to complete its overall review and assessment.

The Agency’s mandate in Iraq under various Security Council resolutions still stands. On 22 May, the Security Council adopted resolution 1483 in which, inter alia, it expressed its intention to revisit the mandates of the IAEA and UNMOVIC under the relevant Security Council resolutions. We are awaiting that review and further guidance by the Council. Nonetheless, I should emphasize that, irrespective of our mandate under Security Council resolutions, we have the continuing responsibility under Iraq’s NPT safeguards agreement with the Agency to ensure that, in accordance with that agreement, Iraq has declared all its nuclear material and activities, and that all nuclear activities in Iraq are for peaceful purposes. We will continue, obviously, to fulfil that responsibility.

Application of Agency Safeguards in the Middle East
Pursuant to the mandate given to me by the General Conference, I have continued to consult with the States of the Middle East region on the application of full scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, on the development of model agreements, and on a forum on the experience of other regions that would contribute to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Once again, I regret to report that due to the prevailing situation in the region I have not been in a position to make progress on the implementation of this important mandate, which is of direct relevance to non-proliferation and security in the Middle East. As before, I will continue to exert every effort within my authority. With the active co-operation of all concerned, I do hope to be able to move this mandate forward in the coming year.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Regarding the implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: as you can see from the comprehensive and detailed report before you, as a result of our inspection activities in Iran since February, we now have a better understanding of Iran’s nuclear programme than at any time before, but much urgent and essential work still remains to be completed before the Agency can draw conclusions on the programme.

It is now clear that, beginning in the mid-1980s, Iran embarked on an extensive fuel cycle research and development programme, based on both indigenous development and imported equipment. The Agency needs to fully understand and verify all aspects of that programme, including its full history.

Since July, Iran has shown increased co-operation in providing information to the Agency and allowing us access to its facilities - and has recently expressed a readiness to enter into negotiations with the Agency on the conclusion of an additional protocol. However, information and access were in some instances slow in coming, piecemeal and reactive, and at times the information provided has been inconsistent with that given previously.

I would strongly urge Iran, in the coming weeks, to show proactive and accelerated co-operation, and to demonstrate full transparency by providing the Agency with a complete and accurate declaration of all its nuclear activities. It is essential that all outstanding issues - particularly those involving high enriched uranium - be brought to closure as soon as possible, to enable the Agency to come to a definitive conclusion. Specifically, Iran should:

    • Provide a complete list of all imported equipment and components stated to have been contaminated with high enriched uranium particles, and - importantly - identify the origin and date of receipt of the equipment, including information about where it has been used or stored in Iran;
    • Resolve questions regarding the conclusion of Agency experts that process testing of gas centrifuges must have been conducted in order for Iran to develop its enrichment technology to its current extent; and

 

  • Provide complete information regarding the conduct of uranium conversion experiments.

In addition to the above issues that are the highest priority, Iran should move rapidly towards the conclusion and bringing into force of an additional protocol. I should note that the additional protocol is a standard text that so far has been signed by 75 countries, and is applied without difficulty in 35 countries. Once a decision has been taken to conclude an additional protocol, the process should not be long.

I would also hope and expect that, in the interim period, before the protocol is brought into force, Iran would allow the Agency prompt access to all sites and locations that the Agency deems necessary to visit - as well as allowing environmental samples to be taken as needed. As I have stated many times, the more transparency that is provided, the more assurance we can give. This is in the interests of both Iran and the international community.

The resolution of some of the issues I have mentioned will also require active co-operation by countries from which nuclear equipment and other forms of nuclear assistance were provided to Iran’s nuclear programme. I trust that such co-operation will be forthcoming.

Management Issues

You have before you two reports on Staffing of the Agency’s Secretariat and Women in the Secretariat. Questions on these subjects arise repeatedly both in the Board and in bilateral discussions, and I believe it is appropriate to clarify some important points.

First, under Article VII of the Statute, the paramount considerations in recruiting Agency staff are efficiency, technical competence and integrity. This will continue to be our guiding principle. In accordance with the Statute, we will only hire men and women who possess the ‘highest standards’ in this respect.

Subject to this, we will continue to make every effort to give due regard to other considerations mandated by the Statute and General Conference resolutions, namely: the contributions of Member States to the Agency; the importance of recruiting staff from as wide a geographic distribution as possible, including unrepresented and under-represented countries; increasing the number of staff from developing countries in senior level positions; and the equality of gender representation in Professional positions.

The effort to meet all of these competing objectives is naturally complex and challenging. There are currently 38 Member States which do not have a single person holding a Professional position subject to geographic distribution - and 22 additional Member States with only one person holding such a position. Clearly, if we are to redress the situation of unrepresented and under-represented countries - including developing countries - it will have an impact on the representation of other countries. This is because the number of Professional posts is fixed; it is a ‘zero sum game’.

The situation is even more difficult regarding senior level posts - those at the Director level and above - where there are only 33 posts that need to be rotated among 136 Member States.

As a further complication, we have witnessed in recent years a decrease in qualified applicants from North America and other developed areas, because the Agency’s salary and remuneration packages have gradually become less competitive on the job market.

As always, I will continue to fulfil my responsibilities in this regard with the best interests of the Agency in mind and in accordance with Article VII of the Statute, the relevant General Conference resolutions, and the Board approved staff regulations. In my view, however, it is not helpful when Member States focus on a quota-like approach to representation in the Agency Secretariat or, even worse, link their contributions or other avenues of support for the Agency to their level of representation in the Secretariat. The focus of all Member States should rather be on ensuring that the Agency’s staff members, regardless of nationality, are truly competent and impartial international civil servants. This is ultimately in the best interests of all concerned and, as the Statute clearly states, supersedes all other considerations. Thus, the best support all Member States could lend to the continuing realization of that goal is by making every effort for an increase in the number of well qualified candidates from their respective countries.

Conclusion

The Agency continues to assume growing responsibilities in nearly all areas of its work, including verification, safety and security, and sustainable development. In this context, I would stress the value of the close partnership between the Secretariat and its Member States, which I trust will continue to be forthcoming.

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Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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