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Statement to Fifty-Fourth Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2010

Vienna, Austria
Fifty-Fourth Regular Session of IAEA General Conference 2010

Mr. President,

A year ago, I addressed the 53rd General Conference after taking my Oath of Office as Director General. I said that the Agency´s contribution to addressing key global issues could be maximized only if it pursued its objectives in a balanced manner.

A constant theme of my first ten months in office has been to pursue multiple objectives in regard to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including technical cooperation, in a balanced manner.

I am trying to change the widespread perception of the Agency as simply the world´s "nuclear watchdog" because it does not do justice to our extensive activities in other areas, especially in nuclear energy, nuclear applications, and technical cooperation. This year, we are focusing on cancer, which is the subject of the Scientific Forum starting tomorrow.

Today, I would like to look back on the past ten months and share some thoughts on our work in the near future. I will start with nuclear energy.

Nuclear Energy

The growing importance of nuclear energy has had a significant impact on the Agency´s work in recent years, leading to a stronger focus on the needs of newcomer countries. In March, I addressed the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy, which was opened by President Sarkozy in Paris. I expressed my conviction that access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries but should be available to developing countries as well. This conference illustrated the growing international interest in nuclear power as a clean and stable source of energy that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change.

It is not an exaggeration to say that we have entered a new era. Some 60 countries are considering introducing nuclear energy. We expect between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plants on line by 2030. Many of the countries which already have nuclear power are planning or building new reactors or extending the operational life of existing reactors.

While it is up to Member States to decide whether or not to opt for nuclear power, the Agency has a key role to play in ensuring that the expansion in nuclear power takes place in an efficient, responsible and sustainable manner. When countries express an interest in introducing nuclear power, we offer advice on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place and how to ensure the highest standards of safety and security, without increasing proliferation risks. We can offer independent know-how on the construction, commissioning, start-up and operation of nuclear reactors. The aim is that countries should be able to introduce nuclear power knowledgeably and profitably.

I would like to share with you some points which I believe deserve attention in the nuclear energy field.

First, the Agency should continue to respond to the needs of countries which are considering introducing nuclear power. Since I took office ten months ago, we have added new staff posts and cost free experts in order to strengthen our assistance to newcomers. In parallel, we will continue to assist countries which are expanding existing nuclear power programmes. That is where most new reactors will be built and where the lifetime of existing reactors is being extended.

Second, I intend to encourage international lending institutions which are reluctant to support nuclear power projects to be more open to such projects. Lending institutions could consider a new approach, bearing in mind the fact that a large number of countries recognise nuclear energy as a stable and clean source of energy which they may wish to include in their energy mix.

Third, the Agency should encourage a proper appreciation of the benefits of nuclear power in helping to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. It is widely recognised that climate change is one of the most important items on the global agenda. That being the case, the benefits that nuclear power offers deserve wider recognition in the discussions in relevant international fora such as those related to the Kyoto Protocol.

Fourth, the Agency´s activities in sharing best practices and disseminating information on waste management and disposal should be expanded. Waste disposal remains an important challenge that needs to be addressed in a safe and sustainable manner by newcomers and established users alike. We can assist both.

In addition to pursuing these goals, we will also continue to stress the importance of the Agency´s work as a catalyst for innovation, for example through INPRO - the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles. INPRO, which brings together technology holders and users so that they can consider together what action is needed to achieve innovation, celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. I congratulate all concerned.

Assurance of Supply

Mr. President,

Discussions have been taking place for some time on possible measures to ensure reliable supplies of nuclear fuel. In March this year, with the approval of the Board of Governors, I signed an agreement with Russia to establish a low enriched uranium reserve to help assure supplies of nuclear fuel to Member States.

While it is clear that views differ among Member States, there is a convergence of views that the issue needs to be discussed further. I believe that the Agency is the appropriate forum for these discussions and encourage Member States to find suitable ways of dealing with this issue. The Secretariat stands ready to provide any assistance required.

I will now turn to nuclear applications.

Nuclear Applications

I know how important our work in areas such as health care and nutrition, food security, the environment and water resource management is for many Member States.

I made cancer in developing countries a high priority for my first year in office. Some 665 people in developing countries die of cancer every hour - nearly three times as many as in developed countries. Around 70 percent of cancers in developing countries are diagnosed too late for life-saving treatment.

In many low-income countries, there is not a single radiation therapy machine. Treatment that can slow, or even eradicate, cancer is often simply not available. Millions of people who could be successfully treated die every year. Since 1980, the IAEA has delivered over $220 million worth of cancer-related assistance to developing countries. I want to build on those efforts in the coming years. I will have more to say about this in a few minutes.

Also in the human health field, we aim to establish a strong link in the coming year between our own education curricula in radiation medicine and the professional competencies needed for capacity-building in Member States. A new human health e-learning website, providing resources for health professionals engaged in delivering radiation medicine, will be launched next month.

The availability of water for sustainable development is a growing concern. As Member States make increased efforts to meet this challenge, they need better scientific knowledge of their water resources. Nuclear technology is also very useful in this area. We have initiated a new IAEA Water Availability Enhancement Project, which is aimed at helping Member States to acquire this knowledge.

In July, I visited the Agency´s Environment Laboratories in Monaco and had an opportunity to meet His Serene Highness Prince Albert, who has been an outstanding partner for the IAEA.

The work of the Monaco laboratories is vital to help protect the world´s greatest natural resource - our oceans and seas. Hundreds of scientists from all over the world have been trained by the Agency in advanced methods for assessing marine radioactivity, isotopes and pollution. Demand for these unique Agency services will continue to grow. A recent reorganization of the laboratories will, I believe, position them to meet the needs of Member States even more effectively in the future.

In all these areas, while the Agency has an important contribution to make through the use of nuclear technology, we are acting in concert with others, strengthening existing partnerships - such as those with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization - and building new ones.

Nuclear Safety and Security

Turning now to nuclear safety and security, we have seen a very significant improvement in the safety performance of the nuclear industry since the Chernobyl disaster nearly 25 years ago. This reflects factors including improved design, better operating procedures, a strengthened and more effective regulatory environment and the emergence of a strong safety culture.

While it is the responsibility of Member States to ensure safety, the IAEA will continue to promote an integrated approach to safety, focusing on management systems, effective leadership and safety culture. The Agency will also help to maintain a high level of nuclear safety by promoting international cooperation, providing review services to Member States, and supporting knowledge networks and training. There is already widespread international support for the Code of Conduct on Safety and Security and the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources. The adoption and implementation of the Code by States in cooperation with the Agency produced significant improvements in regulatory infrastructure and capability in relation to radioactive sources in many States.

Other important challenges we face include the improvement of safety infrastructures surrounding the medical use of radiation. As medical technology using ionizing radiation continues to evolve and new technology and techniques are used globally, including in developing countries, it is important that countries´ safety and security infrastructures keep pace with developments.

Effective national and global response capabilities are essential to minimize the impacts from nuclear and radiological incidents and emergencies and to build public trust in the safety and security of nuclear technology. The Agency´s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) is the global focal point for international preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological safety or security related incidents. The IEC infrastructure will be further enhanced in the coming year.

The Agency continues to assist Member States in developing a sustainable nuclear security capacity, while recognizing that nuclear security is the responsibility of Member States.

In April, I attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, which was hosted by President Obama and attended by leaders from 47 countries. The participating Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the essential role of the IAEA in the international nuclear security framework and pledged to ensure that we have the resources to do our job properly.

Adherence to the relevant international legal instruments on nuclear security has gradually increased. However, while it is five years since the adoption of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, progress towards entry into force remains slow. I encourage the parties to the Convention to work towards accelerating the entry into force of the Amendment.

Technical Cooperation

Mr. President,

I take great pride in the fact that the Agency´s technical cooperation activities are making a real difference to the lives of many people in developing countries. I am thinking of the farmer in the High Andes in Peru who can grow enough crops to feed his family and sell food at the market, thanks to nuclear techniques to boost crop yields in harsh environments; the child in Zanzibar who has milk to drink because the cows are not getting sick, thanks to the Agency´s work to deploy the sterile insect technique, which helped to eliminate the tsetse fly; or the cancer patients in many developing countries whose disease is diagnosed in time for treatment, thanks to the Agency´s assistance.

New resources for the technical cooperation programme as a whole rose to 112.2 million US dollars in 2009 from 91.5 million US dollars in 2008. Human health remained the largest area of activity overall, followed by nuclear safety, and food and agriculture. I welcome the prospect of increased funding of TC Footnote/a projects in the next five years through the $50 million contribution announced by the United States to the Peaceful Uses Initiative. I invite other Member States who are able to contribute to match this commitment.

Capacity-building is at the heart of our work in technical cooperation. The ultimate goal is to make countries self-sufficient - to help them establish or maintain a sustainable, highly specialized and trained human resource base in all areas of nuclear sciences and applications.

For example, the Agency helps Member States to build the capacity to plan and introduce nuclear power. We help countries that already have operating plants to strengthen their capacities for training and management, for better managing long term operation, and for lifetime planning for more efficient decommissioning. In the human health area, we have enabled countries to establish safe and effective radiotherapy capabilities and to provide higher quality treatment to cancer patients. Together with our partners at the FAO, we are helping countries to build up their expertise in food irradiation so they can improve both the safety and quality of food and increase their exports.

Nuclear Verification

Turning now to nuclear verification, at the start of my term, I expressed the hope that the milestone of 100 additional protocols in force would soon be achieved. The number now stands at 102. This is an encouraging development. The additional protocol is an essential tool for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance not only that declared nuclear material is not being diverted from peaceful uses, but also that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in States with comprehensive safeguards agreements. I strongly hope that all remaining States will conclude additional protocols as soon as possible.

I also ask the 18 States without NPT safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay, and call on States with small quantities protocols that have not yet done so to amend or rescind their protocols.

We have realigned the management of the Agency´s laboratories, creating a new Office of Safeguards Analytical Services within the Department of Safeguards. Construction of the Clean Laboratory extension at Seibersdorf started in June. The ultra sensitive mass spectrometer has been procured and the first factory tests were successfully completed. Agency staff are now undergoing training at the factory. The new Clean Laboratory is expected to be fully operational in the first half of 2011.

As far as the new Nuclear Material Laboratory is concerned, we hope to award a construction contract in December so that work can start in July 2011. Despite extra budgetary contributions by several Member States, for which I am deeply grateful, we still need additional funding to complete this project.

To help better understand future verification challenges, the Agency will in November host its traditional international safeguards symposium. The event will bring together technical experts from the IAEA, Member States, the nuclear industry and other bodies to share information and exchange views on the best technical responses to the changes taking place in the field of nuclear verification.

I have continued to report regularly to the Board of Governors on implementation of Agency safeguards, including in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic, which have been on the Board´s agenda. My basic approach has been that all safeguards agreements between Member States and the Agency, and other relevant obligations, should be implemented fully.

Turning to the safeguards issues on the agenda of this General Conference, the nuclear programme of the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea remains a matter of serious concern. The Agency has had no inspectors in the country since April last year, and I therefore have nothing to report on any activities of the IAEA in relation to the DPRK. The DPRK has not permitted the Agency to implement safeguards in the country since December 2002 and it has not implemented the relevant measures called for in Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. I again call on all parties concerned to make concerted efforts for a resumption of the Six-Party Talks at an appropriate time.

Middle East

Regarding the resolution of the 53rd General Conference on the application of full-scope Agency safeguards on all nuclear activities in the Middle East, and on the development of model safeguards agreements as a necessary step towards establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, I regret to report that no progress could be achieved. It is also apparent that there is no convergence of views among Member States on convening a forum on the relevance of the experience of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones for establishing such a zone in the Middle East.

I will continue my consultations with concerned Member States.

Pursuant to the mandate conferred upon me by the General Conference last year in resolution GC(53)/RES/17 on Israeli nuclear capabilities, I sought the views of all Member States and received 44 replies from governments and from the High Representative of the European Union. I also held consultations with representatives of concerned Member States, especially those in the Middle East.

In August, I visited Israel where, at the highest political level, I conveyed the General Conference´s concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities and invited Israel to consider acceding to the NPT and placing all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. As requested by the General Conference, my report on the issue of Israeli nuclear capabilities has been submitted to you.

You will recall that the NPT Review Conference in May endorsed the convening of a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in that region. Having been personally involved in the NPT process since 1995, I was very pleased that the 2010 Review Conference produced concrete results. I hope that the proposed 2012 conference will take place with the participation of all relevant States and that it will lead to a productive outcome.

Verification Related to Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. President,

Credible verification systems are vital for further nuclear disarmament efforts. I believe that, through its verification activities, the Agency can make an important contribution to the implementation of nuclear disarmament.

We recently received a joint letter from the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting IAEA assistance to independently verify implementation of their agreement on the disposition of plutonium no longer required for defence purposes.

Management Issues

Mr. President,

As Director General, I have stressed the importance of continuing to enhance the quality of management in the Agency and defining clearer priorities so as to make maximum use of available resources.

For enhanced management efficiency and transparency, we are replacing numerous separate information systems with a single integrated system and introducing new accounting standards. The first of four phases of a new enterprise resource planning system - the Agency-wide Information System for Programme Support, known as AIPS - is well underway and is expected to go live early next year. However, the second phase is not fully funded in the regular budget for 2011. We are urgently seeking extra-budgetary contributions to ensure that this project - so fundamental to bringing further efficiencies in programme support - is not delayed.

The implementation of the first phase of AIPS will be a significant factor in enabling the Agency to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), in line with UN accounting practice. The Agency´s IPSAS project is on track to start on schedule in January 2011.

Securing proper funding for the Agency´s needs is not easy and requires careful preparation. Our preparations for the Programme and Budget for 2012-2013 will take into account, on the one hand, concerns expressed by Member States about the difficulty of funding the Agency´s activities at a time of serious financial constraints and, on the other hand, the need to address growing demands for new priority activities.

As a first step, special efforts will be made to identify both lower-priority projects and areas to improve efficiency. The second step is to identify areas where additional expenditure will be needed to meet new and expanding demands for assistance from Member States. Requests for funding for new projects will be scrutinized carefully to ensure they are in line with the Medium-Term Strategy. The Programme and Budget estimate for 2012-2013 early next year will reflect the Board´s decision in June that "the 2011 Budget level will be the reference for budget discussions for the next biennium 2012-2013."

Following my appointment of five new Deputy Directors General, an almost completely new senior management team will be in place from early 2011. I am very grateful to the outgoing DDsG for their enormous contribution to the Agency. I also look forward to the fresh input of my experienced and capable new team. I have already begun to move towards more frequent, less formal and more substantive policy meetings of senior staff.

As Director General, I have gained a deep appreciation of the quality of the staff of the Agency. We have excellent, highly trained and dedicated staff at all levels and I want them to know that they have my full support.

Since I became Director General, I have recognized the need to improve communication at all levels, both within the Secretariat and between the Secretariat and Member States. I have travelled extensively this year in order to gain a better understanding of the views and needs of Member States. I also look forward to a strengthened dialogue with Resident Representatives here in Vienna on how Agency programmes can better meet the different needs.

I would like to note that the question of the amendments to Article VI of the Agency Statute, which deals with membership of the Board of Governors, and Article XIV.A on the introduction of biennial budgeting, has been pending for more than 10 years. I appeal to all Member States which have not yet done so to accept these amendments as soon as possible.

Scientific Forum

Before concluding, I would like to draw your attention again to the Scientific Forum, starting tomorrow, on the theme of Cancer in Developing Countries - Facing the Challenge. This is the culmination of our special focus on cancer this year, which has already started to bear fruit. I believe we have succeeded in raising awareness of the problems of cancer in developing countries to a higher political level. Our cooperation with the World Health Organization is going from strength to strength. Confirmed pledges and donations to our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy are running at record levels. We are also seeing a very strong commitment by developing countries to our activities, which has led to an improvement in the quality of some of our cancer-related technical cooperation projects. I appeal to all of you to participate in the Forum and to actively support the Agency´s work on cancer control.

I would like to thank the Government of Austria for being such an exemplary host for the IAEA. I am deeply grateful for the excellent facilities provided by Austria here, both at the VIC and at Seibersdorf, and for the unstinting support which Austria gives to the work of the Agency and to me personally.

Finally, I wish to reiterate that I will continue to implement all aspects of the Agency´s mandate in a balanced manner in order to address the varying interests of Member States.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Last update: 25 Nov 2019

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