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Introductory Statement to the Scientific Forum

Vienna, Austria
6th Scientific Forum during the 47th Session of the IAEA General Conference

I am pleased to welcome all of you to our 6th Scientific Forum - a venue that I am proud to say has in recent years evolved into one of the most popular events at the General Conference, as a clearinghouse for generating and discussing emerging ideas in the nuclear field. This year’s Forum will address a number of timely and relevant issues: innovative approaches to nuclear power and nuclear medicine; the importance of self-reliance for nuclear institutions in Member States; the global application of IAEA safety standards; and the ongoing evolution of safeguards technology. For each topic, we hope by this Forum to take stock of the current situation and raise awareness of current challenges - but even more to generate discussion and ideas of how best to proceed.

Nuclear Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology

The opening session will re-emphasize a point I frequently make - that any significant future expansion in the use of nuclear power will depend heavily on continued innovation in reactor and fuel cycle technology. While nuclear energy holds great potential as a clean source of energy that could help to mitigate the threat of global warming and contribute to sustainable development, the Agency’s most recent projections show the nuclear share falling to about 12% of global production by 2030. Closing this gap - between the realization of nuclear energy’s potential contribution and the predicted decrease in nuclear share - will require the nuclear community to meet a number of challenges, several of which can be addressed through innovation.

Nearly 20 Member States are currently involved in national and international projects for the development of evolutionary and innovative reactor and fuel cycle designs, as well as accelerator driven systems. The Agency has been promoting innovation through its International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), which finalized its first phase by defining “user requirements” in five areas - economics, environmental impacts, safety, waste management and proliferation resistance - for incorporation into innovative nuclear (R&D projects. We are now using case studies in Argentina, Brazil, India, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation to test the application of these user requirements on specific innovative nuclear concepts and designs. Through our work on innovation, we hope to address not only power reactors and the nuclear fuel cycle but also various related nuclear applications, including seawater desalination, hydrogen production and district heating. It is my hope that this Forum will provide insights on the current status of innovation, and will consider how the nuclear community can make its co-operation in this area more effective.

Nuclear Medicine

Our second session will begin by considering the application of information and communication technology tools in the health care community. The practice of ‘tele-medicine’ via the Internet has great potential, which the Agency hopes to use to extend the reach of nuclear medicine in developing countries. The digitized outputs from medical imaging devices can be transmitted from one nuclear medicine centre to another, thus allowing collaborative diagnosis and consultation. In addition, the ability to perform remote maintenance and repairs on equipment is of great benefit - because up to this point the lack of manufacturers’ supportive technical networks has been one of biggest impediments to the growth of nuclear medicine in developing countries.

Through technical co-operation projects, the Agency has supported the tele-linking of nuclear medicine facilities between and within several of its Member States, including Austria, Belgium, Namibia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zambia. Sixteen Latin American countries are participating in a new project to set up tele-nuclear medicine linkages in that region. And Morocco is working on a new technical co-operation project that envisages linking nuclear medicine facilities in Morocco and France.

Despite this progress, a number of technical and economic factors must still be addressed to make practicable the wide scale application of these tele-medicine tools and techniques. I would hope that this Forum session would be able to increase our insight on a number of particular points: which technologies are most suitable and affordable for enhancing connectivity among countries; how we can create greater awareness among potential users of tele-medicine; and how can we best identify additional areas of application.

Self-Reliant Institutions

The second session will also include a focus on our work to help nuclear institutions in developing countries develop self-reliance. Most of these institutions are largely dependent on government or donor funding for their operations. This funding has been progressively decreasing, thereby endangering the survival of the institutions and risking the loss of their nuclear capacity. Several nuclear institutions have identified the inability to generate and retain revenue from services and products as a major barrier to self-reliance and sustainability.

The Agency has been working to provide these institutions with guidance and training on how to achieve self-reliance, in part through improved managerial practices, strengthened core competencies, and a refocusing of their operations on areas relevant to national development efforts. In Africa, through support provided under AFRA, at least ten national nuclear institutions have used this approach to become more self-reliant and thereby less dependent on external funding. In the East Asia and Pacific region, a regional project has similarly focused on helping nuclear institutes to achieve self-reliance by providing needed services and products to both the public and the private sectors, thereby generating sources of income and contributing directly to national development.

In this Forum, we will hear presentations from Brazil, Ghana and Malaysia on the experiences of institutions in those countries in working towards self-reliance. We hope through these presentations and the ensuing discussions to understand more concretely those strategies and policies that contribute to success, and how to enhance the effectiveness of our assistance in that regard.

IAEA Safety Standards: Towards Global Application

One of the Agency’s key statutory functions is to establish standards of safety. Our third session will focus on our efforts to develop standards of the highest quality and work towards their global application.

In the early 1960s, the Agency issued its first safety standards: the Transport Regulations and the Basic Safety Standards, followed later by various safety standards for nuclear installations. While these standards were widely recognized for their value, some early nuclear installation safety standards reflected more of a ‘lowest common denominator’, based on the wide variety in existing national standards. Following the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, however, the clear need for common high level safety standards triggered the generation of a new suite of standards for nuclear installations. The present corpus of IAEA standards in all areas — including the radiation, transport and waste safety areas - are considered to be of the highest calibre, represent current international best practices and should be viewed as universally applicable. They are widely regarded as a cornerstone of the global safety regime, as well as a much needed factor in achieving public trust in nuclear technology.

I would hope that this session of the Forum would provide insight on a number of matters: how to ensure that IAEA safety standards achieve universal recognition as the global reference point for safety, both for regulators and for the nuclear industry; how to achieve smooth implementation of national standards and guidelines that are consistent with those of the IAEA; and how to obtain consistent feedback from the users of these standards, to ensure their ongoing relevance and applicability.

Safeguards Technology: Challenges and Limitations

Safeguards technology has always been a key component of an effective and efficient verification regime, and the acquisition and application of new technology is an ongoing effort for the Agency. The final session of this Forum will highlight the technological challenges posed by the implementation of safeguards strengthening measures, as well as our endeavours to use new safeguards technology to optimize cost effectiveness.

A key area of focus for safeguards technology has been how to be most effective in evaluating the consistency of information available about a given State’s nuclear fuel cycle activities - and, since the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol, how best to detect possible undeclared nuclear material and activities. I would hope that, through this session, we can increase our mutual understanding of several specific points: how best to develop and use the equipment and techniques required for in-field verification; how to employ new hardware and software to acquire safeguards relevant knowledge from open sources; and how to take advantage of advances in environmental sampling. I would also hope to achieve greater understanding of how - in a world in which technology is constantly evolving - the Agency can best work to remain technologically ‘current’ while also being as self-sufficient as possible, particularly against a backdrop of budgetary restraints.


All these considerations should stimulate thought provoking discussions here at the Forum over the next two days. We have brought together a sizeable number of technical experts and policy makers with a background in these issues, and we hope to take advantage of their insights. The topics selected span all three pillars of Agency activity: technology, safety and verification. In that context, I welcome each of you as participants, and I would encourage your attendance at all sessions - not only those in which you have particular expertise. I look forward to the Forum report, which will summarize your views and recommendations and will be conveyed to the plenary of the General Conference by Mr Roberto Cirimello, Argentina’s Senior Advisor in Innovative Technologies and a member of our Standing Advisory Group on Nuclear Energy. Mr Cirimello has kindly agreed to serve as rapporteur for this Forum.

We are fortunate to have very capable individuals to moderate the various sessions of the Forum. The moderator for innovation in nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technology will be Dr Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and former Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission. The moderators for the second session will be as follows: on the topic of nuclear medicine, Professor Britton, Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, and a regular contributor to the Agency’s TC projects on nuclear medicine; and on the self reliance of nuclear institutions, Dr Stumpf, the Chairman of our Standing Advisory Committee on Technical Assistance and Co-operation, and the former Chief Executive Officer of the South African Atomic Energy Commission. The moderator for the session on IAEA safety standards will be Mr Laaksonen, Director General of the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. And the moderator for the final session, on safeguards technology, will be Mr Naito, who serves as a technical advisor to the Japanese Government on safeguards issues, as well as a member of the IAEA’s Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation.

With these remarks I hereby open the 6th Scientific Forum.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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