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Statement to 43rd Annual Conference of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum

Matsue, Japan

Mr. Takashi Imai, President of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Mr Yosuke Kondo, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, Mr. Zenbee Mizoguchi, Governor of Shimane Prefecture, Mr. Masataka Matsuura, Mayor of Matsue-city, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a special honour for me to address the 43rd Annual Conference of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.

For more than 50 years, the Forum has successfully promoted the peaceful, safe and efficient use of nuclear power in Japan, helping to make this country one of the most advanced users of nuclear technology in the world.

But the JAIF has always looked well beyond Japan´s borders and engaged actively in international cooperation. The presence of distinguished high-level participants from many different countries at this conference is testimony to that.

I commend the JAIF for its active support of the IAEA and involvement in a broad range of our activities. Japan is a generous supporter of newcomers to nuclear energy, sharing its expertise and experience and providing practical assistance. As Director General of the IAEA, I am especially grateful for this.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, I would like to speak to you about some of the challenges, as well as the opportunities, which we at the IAEA face in our work. The IAEA is widely referred to as the world´s "nuclear watchdog." As you know, this does not do justice to the full range of the activities of the IAEA. Since its establishment in 1957, the Agency has pursued two fundamental goals: preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and helping to make nuclear technologies available for peaceful applications, which includes technical cooperation.

I would like to focus on four main areas: nuclear power, nuclear safety and security, nuclear sciences and applications, and nuclear non-proliferation.

Nuclear Power

Let me start with nuclear power.

Nuclear power is enjoying growing acceptance throughout the world as a stable and clean source of energy that can help to meet energy needs and to mitigate the impact of climate change. More than 60 countries are considering introducing nuclear power to generate electricity. We expect between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plants online by 2030.

The growth in nuclear power is attracting the attention of world leaders. In March, I addressed an international conference in Paris on access to civil nuclear energy, hosted by President Sarkozy. European Commission President Barrroso was also a speaker. In my talks with both leaders, I was encouraged by their commitment to making the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology more widely available throughout the world. I firmly believe that access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries alone. It should also be available to interested developing countries to help them lift their people out of poverty.

For some years now, the IAEA has been increasingly focussing on the needs of newcomers to nuclear power. Our goal is to assist them at every stage of the process. We provide them with advice on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place and how to ensure the highest standards of safety, security and safeguards, as well as with know-how on the construction, commissioning, start-up and operation of nuclear reactors. The end-result, we hope, is that countries will be able to introduce nuclear power knowledgeably, profitably, safely and securely.

However, there is a limit to what the Agency alone can do to assist newcomers.

Japan has been a strong supporter of our work to help newcomers, providing extra-budgetary contributions and making cost-free experts available. Japan is one of the few countries which continued to build nuclear power plants even during the period of global stagnation in nuclear development. As one of the leading countries in the nuclear industry, it is very well-placed to share its technology and experience, accumulated over many years. Assisting newcomer States in establishing the legal and regulatory infrastructure and providing training for human development are key areas where Japan´s help can make a significant difference.

The Agency provides a useful platform and network through which Japan could play an even more proactive role in helping newcomer states. I welcome the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama in helping to move towards tangible progress in this regard.

The Agency, of course, continues to work closely with Japan concerning its own extensive nuclear energy activities. IAEA safeguards inspectors are kept so busy at Japan´s 55 nuclear power plants and numerous other facilities that it made sense for us to open a permanent office in Tokyo. Spent fuel management, waste disposal and decommissioning are just a few of the many other areas in which the IAEA and Japan work together. I know that many of you in this audience will, like me, be following with interest the construction of the Shimane 3 reactor not far from here.

Japan is at the forefront of innovation in nuclear technology which is essential for the future of the industry. I take a keen interest in research and development which will maximise energy efficiency, reduce risks to the environment and ease the burden on future generations of having to deal with nuclear waste.

Fast reactor technology, for example, has the potential to ensure that energy resources which would last hundreds of years with the technology we are using today will actually last several thousand years. Japan is a leader in this area. I look forward to the restart of the Monju prototype fast reactor before long.

Nuclear Safety and Security

Let me now turn to nuclear safety and security.

It is, of course, important that countries with new or expanding nuclear power programmes should ensure the highest standards of safety and security.

The Agency´s Safety Standards, which date back more than 50 years, have become the global benchmark and were adopted in a new Directive by the European Union last year. Nuclear safety has improved significantly since the shock of Chernobyl in 1986, but the risk of accidents can never be eliminated completely. We must always be vigilant.

Most of our safety work is accomplished through norm setting, peer reviews, advisory services, knowledge and experience sharing and support for capacity-building in Member States. Integrated Regulatory Review Service missions, for example, have been helping to improve regulatory effectiveness since 2006.

The Agency´s expert peer review missions have proven of immense value, bringing practitioners together to share experiences and best practices and identify weaknesses.

For obvious reasons, the issue of the seismic safety of nuclear installations is of special concern to Japan. The IAEA has been working in this area for several decades, carrying out several hundred expert missions to assess the specific needs of individual countries in seismic safety. Two years ago, we launched the International Seismic Safety Centre to help Member States in assessing external hazards such as earthquakes, as well as with site selection and evaluation. I appreciate Japan´s valuable contribution to the activities of the Centre and trust that this cooperation will continue. I also note with appreciation that Japan shared information with Member States about lessons learned from an earthquake which severely damaged the Kashiwasaki-Kariba nuclear power plant in 2007, and maintained a high level of transparency.

Helping to keep nuclear and radioactive materials secure is another growing area of our work.

Last week, I had the honour of attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, chaired by President Obama. Prime Minister Hatoyama participated at the Summit as one of the leaders from 47 countries and announced very important initiatives.

It was encouraging to see such top-level attention being given to protecting nuclear and radioactive material from falling into the hands of terrorists and guarding nuclear facilities against sabotage. It was also gratifying to see the widespread recognition of the Agency´s important work in this field.

The IAEA has steadily expanded its nuclear security programme since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Responsibility for nuclear security rests with each sovereign state, but the IAEA can assist countries in many ways. For example, we helped to protect against possible nuclear attacks at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and will do so again at the World Cup to be held in South Africa this year. After the recent tragic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the Agency helped to verify that no nuclear or radioactive material had gone missing.

We help countries to improve security at nuclear facilities and train border guards in how to detect smuggled nuclear material. We also maintain an Illicit Trafficking Database, the world´s most authoritative source of information on illicit trafficking and other unauthorised activities involving nuclear and radioactive material.

In their Final Communiqué at the Washington Summit, the heads of state and government reaffirmed the essential role of the IAEA in the international nuclear security framework and pledged to ensure that the IAEA has the resources to do its job properly.

I welcome Prime Minister Hatoyama´s statement at the Summit pledging Japan´s increased engagement in nuclear security through, among other measures, increased contributions to the IAEA nuclear security programme, and the establishment of the Integrated Support Centre for Strengthening of Nuclear Security in Asia.

Nuclear Sciences and Applications

A lesser known area of the IAEA´s activities is making advanced nuclear science and technology available to help Member States meet the basic needs of their peoples.

There are many examples. Cancer therapy is one. For my first year as Director General, I have chosen to highlight the fight against cancer in developing countries. It is not widely known that cancer has reached epidemic proportions in developing countries, where it kills 665 people every hour - nearly three times as many as in developed countries. Because of the absence of early diagnosis, most cases are detected too late for life-saving treatment. In many low-income countries, there is not a single radiation therapy machine. As a result, around 70 percent of global deaths from cancer occur in developing countries.

In September this year, we will organize a Scientific Forum devoted to cancer control in Vienna. I look forward to the participation of leading Japanese experts from the medical sector, industry and government.

Challenges in Non-Proliferation

Nuclear non-proliferation is, of course, the area of the IAEA´s work which attracts most attention. Our job is to verify that States are fully complying with their non-proliferation obligations.

The Agency has a number of important non-proliferation issues on its agenda at the moment in various regions of the world. Among these, North Korea´s nuclear programme remains a matter of serious concern in this region, as well as for the wider international community. As you may be aware, the DPRK ceased all cooperation with the Agency last year and asked our inspectors to leave. The Agency is no longer able to implement the ad hoc monitoring and verification arrangement in the DPRK.

I regard the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a matter of great importance. I hope that every effort will be made towards an early resumption of a diplomatic dialogue in a framework such as the Six Party Talks. The IAEA is ready to contribute to future verification arrangements if given the necessary legal authority and resources.


Finally, a few words on nuclear disarmament. The recent conclusion of a new START treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States is a welcome step towards a safe and peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. It is especially timely ahead of the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which I will attend in a few weeks´ time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have given you a very broad outline of the work of the IAEA.

I believe the Agency is most effective when it pursues its dual mandate - preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and supporting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, including technical cooperation - in a balanced manner. As Director General, I will strive to maintain that balance and ensure we meet the needs of all our Member States as effectively as possible.

A number of Member States support the Agency with its programmes. This is especially important as there is a limit to what the Agency alone can do to assist newcomer states. I emphasize to you, the representatives of the nuclear industry, that Japan can play an even more proactive role in helping global development in the areas of nuclear energy, health, the environment, water and safety.

Thank you.

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Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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