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Acting Director General's Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

(As prepared for delivery)

Madam Chairperson,

This is the first regular meeting of the Board of Governors since the untimely death of Director General Amano.

These are not normal times for the Agency. I am grateful to Member States for the confidence they placed in me and for their steadfast support for the Agency during this difficult period. I thank all IAEA staff for their continued dedication to delivering the best possible service to Member States.

Our organization has been tested in the last few months. I believe we demonstrated strength and resilience in continuing to fulfil our responsibilities, despite the many challenges we face.

Technical Cooperation

Madam Chairperson,

The IAEA technical cooperation programme is our key mechanism for supporting the safe, peaceful and sustainable use of nuclear science and technology to address countries’ development priorities.

Our support delivers real practical benefits. In Burundi, for example, farmers have tripled cassava yields by applying improved soil nutrient and water management practices using nuclear-derived techniques. Similar results have been reported from a pilot programme in Laos.

Mauritius took an important step forward in the suppression of agricultural pests in August, inaugurating a new facility for the mass rearing and sterilization of insects. This will strengthen the country’s ability to fight insect pests that cost farmers millions of dollars per year. The Agency advised Mauritius on the design and construction of the facility and helped with the procurement of the equipment.

In Colombia, the IAEA is helping to counter the problem of sedimentation in waterways, which threatens the viability of the country’s 12 hydro-electrical power plants. These provide around 68% of Colombia’s electricity. Nuclear and isotopic techniques make possible the precise and accurate evaluation of sedimentary processes and help to identify hydrological risks in natural and artificial water bodies.

During the General Conference next week, we will hold a side event on the Agency’s legislative assistance activities under the TC Programme. These help countries to develop the legislation necessary to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies, and to understand and implement relevant international legal instruments.

Addressing cancer remains a high priority for Member States. In Tajikistan, the first radiotherapy facility outside the capital was inaugurated in Khujand, capital of the Sughd region, last month. IAEA support included providing specialist training and equipment.

The 2019 Scientific Forum, starting next Tuesday, is entitled A Decade of Action on Cancer Control and the Way Forward. It is an important opportunity to take stock of our activities and to strengthen them where appropriate.

It is important that TC funding be maintained at a level that ensures we can meet growing demand for Agency services. I count on the support of all Member States.

Nuclear Applications

Madam Chairperson,

The new linear accelerator facility and energy centre at Seibersdorf began operations in the second quarter of this year. In August, the Insect Pest Control Laboratory was handed over by the contractor and we began a phased transition into operation. The new Flexible Modular Laboratory building will be ready for use next April.

All new facilities planned under the ReNuAL/ReNuAL+ project are now fully funded. I am grateful to all donors for their valuable contributions. Following commissioning of the labs in the new buildings, our focus will shift to the enhancement of those that will remain in their existing buildings. To provide the core infrastructure to complete this element, we will need 2.6 million Euros in extrabudgetary resources by early next year. I know I can count on your continuing support.

The Agency has been helping a number of Asian countries under the TC Programme to respond to an unprecedented outbreak of African Swine Fever in the region. IAEA experts have been on the ground in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Mongolia and Myanmar to provide advice. Emergency toolkits have been delivered and equipment is being purchased to strengthen detection capabilities. The affected countries expressed appreciation for the support of VETLAB, the Veterinary Laboratory Network established by the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

A promising pilot project on suppressing mosquito populations that carry dengue fever, the Zika virus and other devastating diseases was held in Guangzhou, China, with the support of the IAEA and the FAO. For the first time, the sterile insect technique was combined with a method known as the incompatible insect technique – which involves exposing the insects to bacteria – to suppress the mosquito population in the targeted areas. I understand that the Chinese authorities now plan to test the technology in larger urban areas.

Bangladesh is facing its worst outbreak of dengue fever since 2000. At the request of the Government of Bangladesh, an emergency mission including IAEA and WHO experts visited the country’s capital Dhaka last month to assess the feasibility of applying the sterile insect technique to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease. An action plan was developed on the way forward. This was the first IAEA-WHO mission in this area after the two organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July to intensify research and development on the use of SIT to fight disease-transmitting mosquitoes. The Agency is exploring similar efforts for other countries affected by the outbreak of dengue fever.

Last week, the Agency organised its first ever virtual conference, which was on theranostics. This is a new field involving the combination of diagnostics and therapy to provide personalised medicine and meet the specific needs of individual cancer patients.

Nuclear Energy

Madam Chairperson,

There are 450 nuclear power reactors in operation today, supplying about 10% of the world’s electricity and a third of all low-carbon electricity. Fifty-two nuclear power reactors are under construction.

The Agency’s latest annual projections show that, despite the declining trend for installed capacity up to 2050, nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix. Several  studies suggest that around 90% of electricity will need to be low-carbon if climate change targets are to be met. In order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, significant progress will need to be made in using the full potential of nuclear power.

The transition to clean energy will be the topic of our International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power in October.

We recently launched a Nuclear Communicator’s Toolbox to support effective communication on the benefits and risks associated with the use of nuclear technologies. We also launched a series of webinars to help Member States in engaging with stakeholders when operating, expanding or embarking on a nuclear power programme.

Assurance of Supply

We are in the final phase of making the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan operational. We expect the first delivery of LEU to the Storage Facility to take place within several weeks, at which point the IAEA LEU Bank will become established. The aim is to receive the second delivery by the end of the year.

Nuclear Safety and Security

Madam Chairperson,

The late Director General’s report on Nuclear and Radiation Safety provides an update on our recent work in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, emergency preparedness and response, and civil liability.

Achievements include the completion of a revised long-term structure for IAEA safety standards to make them stronger and easier to use.

The Nuclear Security Report 2019 highlights significant accomplishments in our work to help States to establish effective nuclear security regimes. Priorities for the coming year include the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security, to be held in February 2020 in Vienna. All Member States have been invited to participate at ministerial level.

During the General Conference, we will hold a treaty event at which Member States may deposit instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to treaties for which we are the depositary. This year, the focus will be on the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its Amendment.

Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Madam Chairperson,

My report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) covers relevant activities of the Agency in that country in the last few months.

Yesterday, I visited Tehran for talks with senior Iranian officials. We discussed IAEA verification and monitoring activities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as well as safeguards implementation pursuant to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

Regarding the JCPOA, the Agency was informed about Iran’s latest activities related to centrifuge research and development. I issued a report yesterday on the Agency’s verification of those activities.

The Agency continues to verify and monitor Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. I will report any further relevant developments to the Board in a timely manner.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continue.

Regarding the implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, during my discussions in Tehran, I emphasized the importance of full and timely cooperation by Iran. It is important to advance our interactions and, therefore, I also stressed the need for Iran to respond promptly to Agency questions related to the completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations. The Agency will continue its efforts and will remain actively engaged. Time is of the essence.

The Agency’s work related to nuclear verification is always consistent with our mandate and established safeguards practice. It is independent, impartial, factual and professional. We will continue to work in this manner, which is essential for maintaining the Agency’s credibility, both now and in the future.

Nuclear Verification

Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols

Madam Chairperson,

You have before you for approval a draft additional protocol for Ethiopia. This is an important development.

Since the last Board, Cameroon and Ethiopia have amended their small quantities protocols. A comprehensive safeguards agreement with a small quantities protocol has been signed for Palestine.

The number of States with safeguards agreements in force stands at 183, while 134 States have brought additional protocols into force. I ask States Parties to the NPT without comprehensive safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay. I hope that States which have not yet concluded additional protocols will do so as soon as possible. I also call on States with small quantities protocols based on the old standard text to amend or rescind them.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Madam Chairperson,

As detailed in my report on the application of safeguards in the DPRK, some of the country’s nuclear facilities appear not to be operating, while activities at some other facilities have continued or developed further.

The DPRK’s nuclear activities remain a cause for serious concern. The continuation of that programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable. 

The Agency remains ready to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.

I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency and to resolve all outstanding issues. 

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

As far as safeguards implementation in the Syrian Arab Republic is concerned, our assessment remains that it was very likely that the building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site in 2007 was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the Agency by Syria under its Safeguards Agreement.

I call on Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with unresolved issues related to the Dair Alzour site and other locations.

Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East

As the late Director General’s report on Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East again shows, there remain long-standing and fundamental differences of views among countries of the region with regard to the application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East. It has therefore not been possible to make further progress in fulfilling the mandate from the General Conference in this area. We will continue our consultations.

Management Issues

Madam Chairperson,

The late Director General’s report on Women in the Secretariat covers the Agency’s efforts to achieve gender equality and gender balance in a comprehensive manner. For the first time, the proportion of women in the Professional and higher categories has exceeded 30%. I encourage Member States to help us by reaching out to well-qualified women and putting forward strong female candidates for positions in the Agency, especially at senior levels.

The Agency is committed to fostering a culture of ethics and accountability. Our first Chief of Ethics was appointed in May 2018. With his support, we have engaged in a series of initiatives over the past year, including mandatory training courses for senior managers, focused on ensuring effective performance management and avoiding conflicts of interest. These efforts will continue and a report on the activities of the Ethics function will be provided through the Programme and Budget Committee next year.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

Last update: 03 Dec 2019

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