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Statement to the Forty-Eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Vienna, Austria

Almost 40 years ago, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in December 1953, President Eisenhower launched the "Atoms for Peace" initiative. One feature of this proposal was the creation of an international agency to "devise methods whereby ... fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind". It is to the "Atoms for Peace" initiative that the IAEA owes its birth as well as its mandate to seek to enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity, while at the same time guarding against its use for military purposes.

The twin challenges thus described remain, but in a radically changed world. In my statement to the General Assembly last year, I noted that we are at last moving into a world in which fewer resources will be used for military purposes, including nuclear arsenals. Even though many new and serious problems face mankind, for instance environmental threats, we seem to stand on the threshold of an era in which "Atoms for Peace" can at last achieve its full meaning: an era in which many nuclear techniques may be disseminated especially for the benefit of the developing world; an era in which a wider use of nuclear power may help to reduce some of the environmental threats to mankind; an era in which we may even begin to think seriously about how to organize a nuclear-weapon-free world. Let me develop these themes.

Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development

The objective of sustainable development was endorsed by the Rio Conference on Environment and Development, and outlined in Agenda 21. Nuclear techniques have much to contribute to this objective. The IAEA, as the central intergovernmental mechanism in the nuclear sphere, can play an important role not only in the areas of safe generation of energy and the safe disposal of radioactive waste. It can also facilitate the transfer of nuclear techniques to promote health, to ensure greater availability of fresh water, and to secure important data on the atmosphere and the seas. The IAEA is the only organization in the UN system operating its own laboratories which have research and analytical capabilities that can be used - and are used - for environmental protection and sustainable development. Thus, our laboratory in Seibersdorf outside Vienna is helping institutes in Africa to use nuclear techniques for conducting element analysis in air, water, soil and biological samples. Our Marine Environment Laboratory in Monaco, inter alia, supports and helps marine laboratories in developing countries by providing expertise and training. This work forms an integral part of UNEP's Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme.

Agenda 21 recognizes that although energy is vital for growth, its generation and use can be sources of environmental degradation. The Agenda therefore, calls for the design and implementation of environmentally sound energy strategies. This task will not be an easy one. All forms of energy generation and use entail some risks to health and to the environment. We shall need to aim at a mix of energy sources and ways of using them that minimize these risks. In the context of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, governments are now starting to make commitments to stabilize carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which are linked to the use of all fossil fuels. However, we are still far from formulating national and international energy policies that take into account all implications of various energy choices. To start with, we need more hard data about these implications. To obtain such data, the IAEA has for some years been engaged with other organizations in a project on databases and methodologies for the comparative assessment of health and environmental consequences of different ways of generating electricity.

The IAEA also contributes towards the process in which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is assessing the potential of nuclear power for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. It is worth noting that most of the scenarios for future energy policies which lead to substantial reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions, contain a significant component of nuclear power.

Disposal of Radioactive Waste

Agenda 21 devotes a whole chapter to the environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes, reflecting the importance which the international community attaches to this issue. Agenda 21 encourages support for the IAEA's activities in this regard, especially in strengthening the capacity of developing countries in the field of sound nuclear waste management. Much is being done within the IAEA to promote safe disposal of nuclear wastes: e.g. information exchange, expert assistance, advice and services in specific cases and work on establishing international norms. While non-binding Radioactive Waste Safety Standards already exist, work is expected before long on a binding convention on the Safe Management and Disposal of Radioactive Wastes.

Let me also mention in this connection that under the so-called London Dumping Convention, the IAEA provides the technical basis for norms relating to disposal of radioactive materials at sea. A moratorium on such disposal was recommended in 1985 and next month the contracting parties to the Convention will take a decision on whether to replace this moratorium by a complete ban.

As is well known, some sea disposal of radioactive waste has occurred despite the recommended moratorium and has caused concern. During 1992 and 1993 the IAEA took various initiatives towards evaluating the potential impact and possible remedial action to the radioactive waste dumping in the Kara and Barents Seas. In co-operation with the Governments of Russia and Norway the Agency took part, through its Monaco Marine Laboratory, in the sea expeditions organized by these two countries. Analysis of the environmental samples collected to date indicate that the present levels of radioactivity in the area of the dump sites are low. As a follow-up, the Agency initiated the International Arctic Seas Assessment Project to fully evaluate the possible health and environmental impacts of radioactive wastes dumped in the shallow waters of the Arctic. The IAEA has declared that it is also ready to help assess the potential impact of the radioactive wastes dumped in the North Pacific, including the Sea of Japan. The latest of these dumping actions took place very recently. I turn now to safety in nuclear power.

Nuclear Safety

The efforts of the IAEA to develop not only recommendations but legally binding safety standards for nuclear power plants have continued. I am glad to report that there is now a consensus about the structure and main contents of a Nuclear Safety Convention. The scope of the Convention would be limited to civil nuclear power reactors. An important feature would be an obligation of the parties to report, at agreed intervals, to a Meeting of Contracting Parties on the national application of safety principles laid down in the Convention. This reporting would be linked to a system of international peer review. It is hoped that the Convention will be approved within the next year.

The IAEA continues to assist in seeking to mitigate the consequences of the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. It participates in the Inter-Agency Task Force established by the United Nations and chaired by Under-Secretary-General Eliasson. One very successful project has been to give cattle in the areas affected by the nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl accident a compound called Prussian Blue which radically and safely reduces radio-caesium contamination in meat and milk. Also since the accident, and as a result of far-reaching changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, major efforts are under way to upgrade the safety of nuclear installations in this region. Assistance is offered by the G-24 Group of OECD countries, by the Commission of the European Communities and by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). The IAEA focuses its assistance on implementing consistent international safety assessments and on making recommendations regarding the most urgently needed safety improvements. Some improvements in the safety of these facilities are now achieved as a result of the considerable work undertaken by all concerned - mostly, of course, by the countries themselves in the region.

In conjunction with the UNDP, the IAEA has further taken an initiative to strengthen radiation protection and nuclear safety infrastructures in the States of the former Soviet Union.

Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

I should now like to discuss how the IAEA can meet several new challenges which it may be asked to take on in the fields of security in the post cold-war world.

In his message to the 37th IAEA General Conference, the Secretary-General noted that although the post cold-war world is in some respects a safer one, it is also considerably more complicated. There could be a development which eventually leads all nations to do away with nuclear weapons; but there are also some new risks for a development in the opposite direction, i.e. a spread of these weapons to further countries. The most important measures to prevent horizontal proliferation lie in the fields of security policy - in the creation of such international and regional relations that the incentive to acquire nuclear weapons disappears. It is further of crucial importance that each State's renunciation of nuclear weapons is reliable. If it is not so perceived, there may remain incentives for other States to acquire such weapons. It is to give the greatest possible assurance that nonproliferation commitments are respected and reliable that IAEA verification - safeguards - is demanded and accepted by non-nuclear-weapon States.

In a world of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, a world of fewer nuclear weapons, there is a need to feel confident both that non-nuclear-weapon States are not violating their non-proliferation commitments and that States legally committed to dismantling nuclear weapons do not secretly produce new weapons. The key to confidence-building is full nuclear transparency. IAEA safeguards, particularly when applied to a State's complete nuclear fuel cycle, are an instrument to create such transparency. Not surprisingly, considering the political and security significance of the reliability of non-proliferation commitments, some of the Agency's safeguards and verification activities have been at the forefront of political and media attention during the past year. I shall describe those activities in a moment. However, no rational assessment of the Agency's safeguards system or activities is possible without a realistic understanding of what they can and cannot do.

IAEA Safeguards System

Safeguards inspectors are not a supranational police force that can parachute into a country and stop proliferation. They are inspectors who verify the correctness and completeness of State declarations about nuclear material and installations. Their reports, if reassuring, may create confidence and d‚tente. If alarming, they may trigger action by the international community. Power to take collective action - diplomatic, economic or military - is vested in the Security Council and it is to this body that, in accordance with its Statute and its Relationship Agreement with the United Nations, the IAEA will have to turn if its safeguards verifications point to acts of proliferation or if there is non-compliance with safeguards obligations.

The revelations about Iraq's undeclared nuclear activities highlighted the fact that in practice safeguards activities had been limited to declared nuclear material and declared installations. Following the experience of Iraq, the international community looks for assurance also about the non-existence of undeclared nuclear material and installations in States which have comprehensive safeguards. It looks to the IAEA safeguards to provide this assurance - insofar as it is possible. This has led to considerable efforts in the IAEA to strengthen the Agency's capacity to detect nuclear material and installations which should have been but were not declared.

Inspectors cannot go in blind search of undeclared nuclear material and installations. They must have information about where to go and what to ask. The single, most important, factor for building a capacity to find possibly existing non-declared material and installations is for the Agency to have access to information. Accordingly, measures are taken to strengthen the Agency's information base, e.g. regarding exports and imports of nuclear material and relevant equipment. However, all available safeguards-relevant information must be scrutinized and analysed critically. There exists much erroneous information and the Agency must seek to avoid false alarms. It is obvious that the more thorough and comprehensive the Agency's verification activities are, the more confidence and assurances they can provide. Fortunately, several new techniques and approaches are emerging, like environmental monitoring, which may be used to give safeguards the greater detection capacity now asked for. These techniques and approaches will need to be tested, assessed thoroughly and accepted, before they can be broadly used and relied on.

Safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

The central safeguards issue relating to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is that the IAEA verification activities in the DPRK suggest that some nuclear material exists there which has not been reported to the Agency. Hence, the Agency cannot verify the correctness and assess the completeness of the DPRK's report of material subject to safeguards. The Agency has not asserted that the DPRK is diverting nuclear material for weapons development. However, until such time as the inconsistency between the DPRK's report and the Agency's findings is satisfactorily resolved through additional information and visits to additional locations - the possibility that nuclear material has been diverted cannot be excluded.

One would expect that a government faced with questions relevant to safeguards implementation would go out of its way promptly to provide the IAEA with clarification. Regrettably, so far, the DPRK has instead been seeking to restrict IAEA safeguards verification - reducing transparency. Thus, the area of non-compliance with the comprehensive safeguards agreement has been widening.

As a result, a number of verification measures of the DPRK's declared nuclear activities have become overdue, and continuity of some safeguards-relevant data has been damaged.

The longer the Agency is precluded from conducting inspection, the more safeguardsrelated data deteriorate, and the less assurance safeguards can provide that even the declared facilities are used exclusively for peaceful purposes. For its part, the Agency is ready to conduct inspection of the nuclear installations and material which the DPRK has declared and submitted to safeguards. However, the inspection activities are an integral whole. They are not a set of activities from which an inspected State can pick and choose. The Agency is also ready to consult with the DPRK on all outstanding safeguards issues, including the question of inspection of non-declared sites and additional information.

Only the practice of full nuclear transparency, including full implementation of IAEA safeguards, can create confidence that the DPRK's nuclear activities are devoted exclusively to peaceful purposes.

South Africa

When a State joining the safeguards system has many nuclear installations and much nuclear material, it is always difficult to verify that everything has been declared. However, the Agency's activities in South Africa show that such difficulties can be successfully tackled through sustained efforts by the IAEA and a high degree of co-operation and transparency by the inspected party. Since September 1991, when South Africa concluded its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, twenty-two IAEA safeguards missions have visited South Africa. Many apparent discrepancies and inconsistencies, which were earlier identified, have been resolved. No reason has been found to doubt the veracity of South Africa's initial declaration.

A new dimension was added when President de Klerk declared that South Africa had developed a nuclear weapons capability but had destroyed it totally before acceding to the NPT. The Agency was invited to examine that the programme had, in fact, been terminated and that all the nuclear material had been placed under safeguards. A team of Agency staff and nuclear weapons experts visited South Africa for these purposes in April, June and August this year. It found no indication casting doubt on South Africa's statement that all the highly enriched uranium from weapons had been reported in its initial declaration.

Iraq

For the last two and a half years the IAEA has devoted much effort to fulfil the mandate laid down in Security Council resolution 687 relating to Iraq. Some 21 inspection missions sent by the IAEA and considerable staff work in Vienna have enabled us to conclude that, in all essential aspects, Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons programme has been mapped, and is either destroyed or neutralized. Declared, non-irradiated highly enriched uranium was removed from Iraq in November 1991 and a schedule has been established for the removal of declared, irradiated highly enriched uranium. When this activity is complete, no highly enriched uranium and no capacity to produce it should remain in Iraq.

There are still some gaps in our knowledge about Iraq's nuclear supply and procurement channels and about sources of scientific and technical information. We hope that, on the basis of documentation very recently made available by Iraq, the last pieces of this picture will soon be clarified in a way which will contribute towards full and effective long-term monitoring. This will be essential to give assurance that Iraq does not seek to reacquire proscribed nuclear capability. In recent discussions in New York with the Iraqi side, the IAEA and the UN Special Commission have clarified how ongoing monitoring and verification is to be pursued. Such monitoring will not, of course, preclude the Agency from using the extensive rights of inspection in Iraq approved by the Security Council should it need to do so.

On the basis of preparations carried out over the last year, the Agency has phased in, on a de facto basis, certain elements of its ongoing monitoring and verification plan provided for in Security Council resolution 715(1991) - a mandatory resolution that is automatically binding on all Member States. The approach which has been followed will allow the Agency to move into full and formal implementation of the plan at an early stage and thus accelerate the implementation of the Security Council resolutions, insofar as they relate to Iraq's nuclear capacity.

However, as I reported recently to the Security Council, before the IAEA can report that, in its view, Iraq has complied with the requirements of paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 of Section C of resolution 687(1991), Iraq must formally acknowledge its obligations under Security Council resolution 715(1991) and the plan approved thereunder, and the IAEA must satisfy itself that it is in a position to fully implement the plan. The IAEA equally must verify to its satisfaction recent information provided by Iraq on suppliers.

I will now touch on some areas in which we can be sure that IAEA safeguards activities will expand and others where such expansion is possible.

Argentina / Brazil / ABACC

A good example of mutual openness and confidence-building in nuclear activities has been set by Argentina and Brazil. Increasing co-operation in the nuclear sphere between the two countries over the last decade culminated in 1991 in the Guadalajara Agreement on the Exclusively Peaceful Utilization of Nuclear Energy. This agreement was supplemented by a quadripartite safeguards agreement which was signed in Vienna in December 1991, between Argentina, Brazil, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) and the IAEA. Under this latter agreement, comprehensive IAEA safeguards will be implemented in the two countries. I am pleased to note that the Argentine parliament approved the safeguards agreement last year and the Lower House of the Brazilian Congress has recently approved it. The application of comprehensive IAEA safeguards will by no means raise any obstacles to peaceful nuclear development in the two countries. Rather it is likely to remove some obstacles to wider international co-operation. It could also lead soon to the entry into force of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Latin America becoming effectively a nuclear-weapon-free zone would be a major event and would strengthen nuclear non-proliferation efforts generally.

Africa

I have already spoken about the Agency's verification activities in South Africa. The positive developments in South Africa may also lead to the conclusion of a treaty making the whole African continent a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The Agency is working closely with the UN-OAU Group of Experts entrusted with the drafting of an African Nuclear-WeaponFree Zone Treaty.

Middle East

In the Middle East, the peace process has passed a difficult hurdle. If the process accelerates, the prospect of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction may increase. Support of the Parties to the peace process for the concept of such a zone is firm.

Against the background of the many past conflicts and the deep distrust between the parties in the Middle East, there is naturally much interest in considering how, and by what means, effective verification of a nuclear-weapon-free zone can be achieved and how guarantees can be created for early warning of any violations, should they occur.

There appears to be a general understanding among the regional parties on the need for comprehensive and far-reaching verification in a future nuclear-weapon-free zone. Another important confidence-building measure would be the development of active cooperation between the parties, in the nuclear field, in an open and transparent manner.

In pursuance of a mandate placed upon me by a resolution of the IAEA's General Conference GC(XXXVI)/RES/601), I have been consulting States of the Middle East region with a view inter alia to facilitating the early application of full-scope Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in that region. In a further resolution (GC(XXXVII)/RES/627), the General Conference added the request that the Director General should provide whatever assistance may be requested by the Parties in the Middle East in support of the multilateral efforts of the peace process. I shall certainly respond to any such request.

New Roles for the IAEA

In his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 September 1993, President Clinton spoke about steps to control the materials needed for nuclear weapons production, to address issues related to growing global stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and steps to encourage all nuclear weapon States to refrain from nuclear testing and, to begin negotiations towards a comprehensive test-ban treaty.

In areas such as these, roles may be assigned to the IAEA which, whilst consistent with its mandate, would go beyond its traditional safeguards functions.

International Arrangements for Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

Current nuclear disarmament measures, as well as current reprocessing of spent civilian nuclear fuel, will lead to substantial quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) - nuclear weapons useable materials - which will have to be safely and securely stored before they are put to peaceful use or otherwise disposed of.

Concerns about the safety and security of such materials might be alleviated by devising specific confidence-building measures which States could enter into either unilaterally or multilaterally. The IAEA has initiated some preliminary work in seeking to identify some of the problems and possible modalities for the management of plutonium and HEU.

Verified Cut-Off of Production of Fissionable Material for Military Purposes

A verified cut-off of the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons or other explosive purposes has been under international discussion for many years. However, the present international climate gives grounds for hope that discussion could lead to an agreement involving all States on an equal basis. Verification arrangements needed to underpin such an agreement would entail great challenges, having necessarily to focus on the largest and most complex of nuclear installations: enrichment and reprocessing plants. Methods and techniques of verification exist but might have to be further developed. Should IAEA safeguards be applied to the operation or dismantling of all installations capable of producing weapons-useable material, the added workload of verification - and the resources need for it - would be significant. The value of a cut-off agreement would also be very significant.

A complete test-ban agreement

Among arms control measures now under discussion is an agreement on a complete ban on any kind of nuclear explosive testing. It has been suggested that the IAEA might be given a central role in verifying compliance with such agreement, including the management of an international Data Center and the conduct of on-site inspection. The Agency has some experience and expertise in the field of seismic measurements, the main verification method under consideration, as well as in other relevant areas. I am confident that, with some added capacity, the IAEA would be able to perform verification tasks under a test-ban treaty, if entrusted with this task.

NPT Conference 1995

The fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1995 will also mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The NPT continues to provide a solid framework for global nuclear non-proliferation endeavours side by side with the other multilateral treaties on the subject.

In its Summit Statement of 31 January 1992, the Security Council, inter alia, emphasized the integral role of effective IAEA safeguards in the implementation of the NonProliferation Treaty. There is little doubt that the most important contributions which the Agency can make to the NPT are to continue to strengthen the effectiveness, efficiency and credibility of the safeguards applied under the Treaty, to continue to facilitate the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as prescribed by the Treaty and to effectively extend safeguards to the new Parties to the Treaty.

In anticipation of the adherence of States of the former Soviet Union to the NPT, much preparatory work has been undertaken for the introduction of comprehensive safeguards in these States. Both individual Member States of the IAEA and the Secretariat of the IAEA have helped to provide information and equipment to facilitate the establishment of effective national systems of nuclear accountancy and control. Actual implementation of safeguards must, however, await the conclusion of formal safeguards agreements. To date, only one such agreement has come into force - with Lithuania.

  • * *

I should like to conclude with some brief comments relating to the Agency's finances, programme and personnel. The Agency's financial situation remains precarious. Crises have been avoided only because substantial shortfalls in budgetary contributions to our activities have been met by a curtailment or deferment of some activities. When resources are so scarce, it is particularly important that they be used in a way which reflects the Agency's dual functions in a balanced and equitable manner.

The community of States must not, by default, lose out on this era of opportunity and challenge. The IAEA stands ready to perform a verification role in a number of vital arms control and disarmament measures, which may now become possible. However, the Agency must be given adequate resources to perform new tasks. Without such resources, limits will inevitably be placed on its ability to match up to the high expectations which are placed upon it.

Finally, let me record that Austria is an excellent host to all the international organizations which are located in Vienna and I should like to finish this statement by expressing before this august Assembly the thanks of the IAEA to the Government of Austria.

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Last update: 26 Nov 2019

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